The Church Council of Greater Seattle is honored to present the 2017 Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Awards to Father Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral, and Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Seattle.

We will honor the recipients at the Weaving Our Strengths Conference on Saturday, September 30, at University Congregational Church, 4515 16th Ave. NE, Seattle 98105. The celebration starts at 1:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. An RSVP to Ann is helpful but not necessary. Read about the honorees below.


The 2017 Rev Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit –Individual
Father Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral

Father Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral, embodies the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the movement of aggiornamento, or “updating” that renewed the Catholic Church in its encounter with the modern world. Fr. Ryan has made the Cathedral a nationally known place of sacred liturgy, truly a “work of the people.” In ecumenical connection and interfaith relations, Fr. Ryan is a trusted, humble friend in faith. In outreach, Fr. Ryan has unleashed an unparalleled scope of community service. And in public witness, in times of pending war or after tragedies of gun violence, Fr. Ryan has been a prophetic voice with the Cathedral being a center of hope and consolation.

In celebrating 50 years as a priest, Fr. Ryan has noted, not his personal accomplishments, but the joy of “all the ways we get to be the church, the hands, the feet, the heart, the face of Christ.” The greatest strengths of St. James Parish Cathedral, according to its members, are Fr. Ryan’s leadership, outreach and liturgy/music. A pastoral leader at St. James summed up what Fr. Ryan has modeled for the parish:  “We follow Jesus most closely by serving one another.”

Fr. Ryan was born and raised in Seattle. In 1966, he was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. In 1977 Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen appointed him as Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Seattle and Vicar General. He served in those capacities until 1988 when the same Archbishop appointed him Pastor of St. James Cathedral where he continues to serve. In 1994, Father Ryan oversaw the nationally acclaimed renovation and restoration of the Cathedral.  Under his leadership, the Cathedral parish has tripled in size since the Renovation, drawing families from more than 180 ZIP codes.

In 1999 he was awarded a Doctoral Degree in Humanities, honoris causa, by Seattle University.  In 2012, the Association of US Catholic Priests honored him with the Blessed Pope John XXIII award for keeping alive the vision and spirit of Vatican II.

The more than 2,400 households of St. James engage a vast array of ministries, including: the Cathedral Kitchen, Mental Health and Wellness Ministry, St. James Immigrant Assistance, Winter Shelter, Sandwich Ministry, Care Teams, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Solanus Casey Center, assisting people experiencing homelessness after incarceration.

“As each year passes I realize how blessed I am to be called to serve,” Fr. Ryan has said. “I think any of us who minister in the church realize that ministry is a two-way street. We get to minister to the people, but it’s receiving so much from the people we serve. It’s a wonderful two-way street that God uses us and God uses the people we serve to create something that’s way beyond anything we could do.” (Northwest Catholic)

For Fr. Ryan’s steadfast, faithful leadership, collaborative spirit, and ecumenical passion, the Church Council of Greater Seattle is honored to present Fr. Michael G. Ryan with the 2017 Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award for an Individual.

The 2017 Rev Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit – Congregation
Gethsemane Lutheran Church 

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the congregation of Gethsemane Lutheran Church is dedicated to being a presence, “In Christ, In the City.” “We listen to the witness of others and we watch for ways God is active in the world around us.”

Gethsemane, founded in 1885, is the oldest Lutheran church in Seattle and one of the few remaining congregations in the downtown core. It is also one of Seattle’s “newest” Lutheran churches (part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), and, after a path-breaking remodel in 2012, a re-energized space. Gethsemane has set the standard for renewed use of sacred space and property – transforming into a contemporary sanctuary with a wonderful communal feel and a large community room for church and neighborhood gatherings and meetings.  Above the sanctuary and office spaces are 50 low-income housing units, built with Compass Housing Alliance, accessible to people earning between 30 to 60% of median income.  Mary’s Place Day Center for homeless women and children is located on the lower level.

The Pastor, the Rev. Joanne Engquist, has reflected: “This place is an extraordinary gift to the downtown community.”  Under her leadership and that of the Rev. Kari Lipke, Pastor of the mission-start partner The Garden, which gathers there, the place and the congregation are indeed gifts to the community.

Gethsemane engages the local neighborhood by hosting public forums and discussions on issues such as affordable housing and living wage jobs.  After a process of discernment, Gethsemane recently declared itself to be a sanctuary congregation for immigrants and refugees.

Gethsemane is known as a place of inclusive welcome to all.  They describe themselves (in part) this way:

“We are a progressive, GLBTQ-affirming congregation that welcomes all: people who have been to church (any church) their whole lives, as well as those who never have been or have been away for a while; people filled with doubts or questions and those whose faith and hope run deep; people longing to find a community of belonging and anyone who may simply be “passing by”… This is a place open to you wherever you are in your spiritual journey.”

In the spirit of the gospel and following the footsteps of Martin Luther, Gethsemane believes that “Faith urges us to a full life, liberated for a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”

For creating beautiful worship and communal space, housing and homelessness services, inspiring love and mission, laughter, and ministry, the Church Council of Greater Seattle is proud to present Gethsemane Lutheran Church with the 2017 Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award for a Congregation.


The Church Council created the Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit award to honor and remember her and to recognize an individual and a congregation/organization who embodies Rev. Apel’s spirit and lives out their faith in the social justice/community service area. In 1930, during a period of major economic depression, the Rev. Gertrude Apel was the first General Secretary of what would become the Church Council of Greater Seattle. In a time when women did not “lead” organizations, Rev. Apel was a tireless ecumenical leader and an amazing organizer. She had a talent for fostering cooperation and always getting things done.

Previous Recipients

Marty Hartman, Executive Director, Mary’s Place — Accompanying vulnerable women and children, transforming the continuum of care for people experiencing homelessness
First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Seattle, led by Senior Pastor Carey G. Anderson — Model of building bridges as a community of faith toward a just and equitable future for all

Killian Noe, Co-Founder, The Recovery Café — Creating space for healing & wholeness
St. Matthew / San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn — Bilingual, bicultural model of immigrant accompaniment

The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, Pastor, Riverton Park United Methodist Church — Risk-taker for economic justice
University Lutheran Church — Embodies service and justice as part of a faith-filled vision

The Rev. David Mesenbring — Life of justice across the continents in South Africa and through Oikocredit
Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH) — Model of ecumenical fellowship and service

Sr. Julie Codd, CSJP — Working from the heart with Native American communities
The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, led by the Rev. Terri Stewart — Pioneering embrace of young people who experience detention

The Rev. Rich Lang, Pastor of University Temple United Methodist Church — Prophetic voice for social justice
Skyway United Methodist Church, led by the Rev. Steve Baber — Organizing for equity and justice for all

Fr. Tony Haycock, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church — Honoring the dignity of the Spanish-speaking community, seafarers, and all God’s people
Seattle Mennonite Church — Taking the church into the neighborhood and expanding the notion of neighbor

The Rev. Jon and Juni Nelson — Transforming forces for social change who bent the arc of justice

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