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by Carle Griffin, Historiographer of the Diocese

It is your ship, and it is a good old ship. Let’s not wreck it. – Bishop S. Arthur Huston


The Episcopal Church in western Washington became a full-fledged diocese in 1910, the year it adopted a seal depicting a ship and the Bishop’s mitre. The ship on the seal represents many Christian themes, including salvation and community. She recalls Lady Washington, the bark in which Capt. Gray sailed into the Columbia River in 1788, building the case for the United States to claim the Pacific Northwest. A tailwind propels the ship forward.

Two rapid-growth periods challenged and rewarded the church in Western Washington, bracketed by long stretches of slow growth as if sailing into the wind. The first period, 1885 – 1892, which saw Washington leap forward in economic activity, produced rapid growth in the number of congregations.

About 60 years later, in the aftermath of WWII, both the number of congregations and communicant numbers skyrocketed. The chart shows steady growth in the number of communicants from the 1870’s to 1940. The Baby Boomer era appears from the 1940’s to the 1960’s as an anomaly based on a brief increase in birthrate (the “bump” in the right half of the graph.) Communicants grew by 120% in 20 years and decreased by 28% in the next 20 years. By 1990 communicant strength, projecting from the graph shown, had returned to the point it would have been without the Baby Boom.