quest + interbay = one church

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[updated June 4] Quest celebrated their joint ONE service yesterday.  Relevant links:  video tribute to Interbay and Seattle PI article on the merger.

[updated May 6] This past Sunday, Quest also voted in favor of merging with our neighbors, Interbay Covenant Church. Two weeks ago, Interbay – an older, established church with 65 years of history, voted to merge with Quest – a newer [6 years], emerging, multiethnic, and missional church.   The ”merger” is amazing because while two equal churches are coming together, Interbay has chosen to join Quest and dissolve as a formal organization and institution. Their Kingdom vision has been humbling and amazing…

My wife and I hosted our first “info” meeting for our churchplant in December 2000.  Eight people showed up.  Quest had our first weekly community study in January 2001 and met for several months at the Seattle Vineyard Church. Because Vineyard was planning on starting an evening service, we were forced to move but could not find another church with space.  During the last hour, we were introduced to Interbay Covenant Church – in a neighborhood called Interbay which neither I nor any of the 30 Questers at that time had ever heard of.

We rented their building from 2001-2002 and held our service in the evenings at 5.07pm.  We inquired with them about the possibility of renovating their small warehouse [next door] that they used to utilize for their youth ministry in the 1970s-80s.  After an amazing and quick turnaround [from this to this], that warehouse became our current live music venue, non-profit Q Cafe, and our church space in Oct. 2002.   Simply, God has blessed Quest…[5 year video]

About 2.5 years ago, Interbay’s senior pastor, Ray Bartel, approached me about a vision.  The idea surrounded a radical vision for Interbay to ‘give itself’ to Quest.  It began as a thought, then a conversation, and then led to shared prayer.  We eventually shared the thought with our respective leadership teams and it stayed there for a long time and eventually, with support from the respective leadership, was posed to the larger church communities for dialogue, prayer, and conversation this past year.

There are 3 things [amongst many] that make this an incredible story.

  1. An amazing commitment to the Larger Kingdom.  The average size church in Seattle is about 80 people.  Interbay is averaging about 60 adults and 10 children.  They basically had no debt and were financially stable; While the long term future of Interbay was uncertain, it was very obvious that they could have been around for several more years.  Who knows?  There are many churches that can’t fully grasp that even churches (small ‘c’) have a life cycle as well; they try hanging on till the very end and are usually forced to make decisions with their backs against the wall.  Developers are often hawking for the opportunity to pummel down church buildings to build up condos, high-rises, retail shops, and such.  Once the larger Kingdom loses property and building, it’ll never come back. Folks at Interbay have said on numerous occasions: “What we want is to see, above all,  is a vibrant and thriving church presence in this area and to Seattle…That’s what matters to us.”  This is Kingdom vision.
  2. An amazing step of faith.  Like all works of God, there are stories of amazing faith in the history of Interbay.  The ministry at Interbay began about 65 years ago.  A man named Henry Isaacson purchased the land and handed it over to First Covenant Church Seattle.  FCC eventually deeded the property to Interbay  – a churchplant of FCC that was ‘officially’ established on Easter Sunday, 1954.  53 years of amazing history.  People like Carl and Inga Hagstrom have literally used their very hands to build the church – physically and metaphorically.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Inga recently and was moved to near tears to hear her love for Jesus and the church.  There are stories like Elsa Olson who was given a ‘temporary’ Sunday School class of 2 and 3 year olds.  That temporary job lasted 24 years and the current [and future] nursery, Elsa’s Garden, is named after Elsa.  During the early years, the children’s ministry grew to about 200 children; in the 1970s-80s, Interbay was the hub for a vibrant youth ministry.  We still have occasional customers at our non-profit Q Cafe reminiscing how their lives were impacted by their youth ministry in the same space many years ago.  Nobody likes change. It is difficult; it takes courage; it takes faith.   This is an amazing story of faith.
  3. An amazing example of generosity.  While this is a ‘merger,’ Interbay is giving a great deal as they have chosen to join Quest.  In this merger, they will relinquish their church institution – their name, their leadership team, their constitution, and simply, their ‘ways of doing things.’  A well discussed ‘Transition Plan’ will be implemented to ensure that the most important asset in any church community – the people – will not be forgotten or hurt.   All of their assets and stuff will also be given to the unifed Quest.  While their church building isn’t large, the value of the land and building is astronomical as is everything in Seattle. The building/land – valued at approximately 8 million – will also be passed on to Quest.  This is amazing generosity.

While the vote was near unanimous for Interbay and much excitement, it should be noted that there’s some pain and a sense of loss for the folks at Interbay.  It’s understandable.  Some grieving will need to take place.  But it is both my personal and our church’s sincere hope and conviction that the sense of ‘loss’ will be redeemed by the abundant fruit of shared community, vision, and ministry.   We’re not naive; we know there is going to be some adjustment for both churches.  While we share similarities, we are also two very different churches.   I am most excited about the privilege we have of growing together.  Their stories, wisdom, and gifts will be a great blessing not only to Quest but in our shared commitment to be a missional presence to Seattle and the larger world. 

I am sharing this story not only to inform those who are tracking with this story, but as one way to honor the community and legacy of Interbay.  Their story, courage and faith, sacrifice, and legacy needs to be shared with others.  Feel free to forward this story to others and since some of the folks at Interbay subscribe to this blog, share how their faith, courage, and Kingdom vision has blessed you.

Interbay: Thank you for your amazing faith and courage! 

38 thoughts on “quest + interbay = one church

  1. This is an Amazing Story! I come from a church where the younger and the older generation had a hard time working together, didn’t want to compromise and submit to one another to further God’s Kingdom. Thank You Interbay for giving me hope!!!

  2. Praise, God! Interbay, I look forward to the many years that lie ahead, getting to know and love you as much as I do the rest of our church. As I 24 year old man, I also look forward to the mentorship that I hope and pray will come with the growth of our family. This whole thing is tremendously humbling.

  3. I’m so excited! To see a church continue to choose vision and ministry and expanding the kingdom of God, even when it’s a hard choice and giving beyond where it’s easy, is an inspiration. My father’s father helped build the church he was in for 82 years, which closed last summer. All they got to feel was the loss and the ending of what had been a big part of their lives. I look forward to the legacy that will continue to be built by this merger, and the richness of the shared story that will develop as we learn from each other.

  4. We’ve been praying with you man, so this is exciting and encouraging answer to prayer. I love the heart of the older saints at Interbay. What a testament to old school faithfulness. We’ll keep lifting you and yours in prayer through the transition.

    Joshua

  5. As a member of Interbay Covenant, I am very excited about what lies ahead for our two churches. Thank you to those from Quest who posted comments above, I am looking forward to working/worshipping with you!

  6. It has been an immensely moving and humbling experience to share with Interbay in envisioning a joint future over the last few months. I have seen an amazing witness of God’s grace and love in the way the leaders of Interbay have openly sought what builds his kingdom. This is a huge step of faith that many churches would not have had the strength and maturity to even consider, and I hope that we can honor this gift and seek a joint path ahead that leads to the gospel being shared with renewed passion in the Interbay area. I look forward to seeing one united church worshiping together and serving each other.

    In love, Tim

  7. I want to sincerely thank the community at Interbay for the example. You are truly an inspiration not only to Quest but to many others as well beyond Seattle – including me.

  8. I love how this story has unfolded! God’s showing off again! Way to honor the saints at Interbay. I’m really excited for you and for Quest. I remember my first time trying to find your church in the early days, before the warehouse reno. How cool is it to see the partnership between Interbay and Quest come to this …

  9. What an amazing selfless gift! May God bless you for your heart for His greater Kingdom. May Quest honor and use this gift with spiritual discernment and wisdom. We pray that Quest Church will make you proud in the years to come, as we grow together as one church dedicated to doing the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  10. Dear fellow ICC brothers and sisters,
    I would like to take this opportunity to Praise the Lord for uniting His people. I praise God for the wisdom and knowledge that He will bless us all with this merging of His will and ours. I look forward to learnign and serving each other through Christ. I long to see unity and worship together with you; to share joy together and also to share trials together.

    May the Lord be delighted in our union and bless the children of this church.

    With love and blessings,
    Richie

  11. Interbay,
    Having grown up in the same church in my youth, I’m proud of your church. Change like this I’m sure will be hard. However, I pray blessings for you for being open to the Lord. Looking forward to meeting more as one church!

  12. I just wanted to thank you for the journey with Quest thus far and am looking forward to future ministry with you. I have been humbled by your posture of faith and giving in the midst of future transition. We are excited to see what God will do in honor of this merger.

  13. Interbay’s prayer group is responsible for making me a missionary. They are the ones who have prayed for God’s call in my life even when I had a very different goal for my career. Look at what happened – I first ended up in Siberia as a short-term missionary because of their prayers and now I am back in Russia again as a missionary, again because of the Interbay’s support and prayers.

    My desire is to see the Quest Church continue impacting people’s lives for Christ. More than ever before. More than anyone has ever imagined.

  14. I just want to thank you for literally loving your neighbor! The love that you’ve shown us and your willingness to combine with us is such a blessing. I’m excited for our future together!

  15. Dear Interbay,

    I’m excited about the merging of two churches into one. I am struck by the fact that it is much more difficult to bring together to distinct churches into one than it is to split a church into two. for a church to come together consciously seek to overcome the barriers speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit doing the work of Jesus bringing together and making one body when there was two. Thank you for taking the lead in this endeavor and willingness to bring us into your community.

  16. Dear Interbay,

    I can think of very few churches who have done what you are doing. In fact, I can think of quite the opposite – churches (often times who are dying – which you certainly aren’t) who are fighting to merely protect themselves with little care for the Kingdom of God. Your willingness to merge with Quest reminds us that Quest exists not for our own sake – that perhaps one day we might give over ourselves to another church for the Kingdom of God.

  17. Dear Interbay Church,

    We want to thank you for the many years of presence and service through your church over the years, as it has left a lasting legacy. Thank you also for your humility and Godly character throughout the whole process, which will also leave a lasting legacy and model for the new church to continue. We hope to learn from you as we get to know you. And we hope too you will feel that the foundation you’ve laid is continually bearing more fruit in succeeding generations.

  18. What a blessing to stumble across this story! It is a clear example of 2 Timothy 2:2 – the things the Interbay had learned from FCC have been entrusted to Quest, who has by this blog been able to teach the same to others.

  19. There was a youth group in the 90’s that occupied the warehouse, for clarification ask Gina Waters, Canesha Warren, or Pamela Christensen. I only mention this for historical accuracy.

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