At the Intersection of the Sacred and the Secular

Adam Ydstie in front of Urban Grace

Dec. 19, 2013

Adam Ydstie, '08, loves community. He loves the arts. And threading through it all, he loves God. These passions have led him to service in the multi-faceted community of Tacoma, Wash., and he’s making a difference.

Being the Events & Facilities Director at Urban Grace, an ecumenical congregation in downtown Tacoma, provides the setting for his unique ministry.

Urban Grace has a rich heritage dating back to 1883, when it was founded as First Baptist Church. As the congregation grew in the early 1920s, they built a new church. However since they were in the downtown theatre district, the city did something unusual – they required them to incorporate stages throughout the building.

Today, the large four-story church with its vast Sunday school rooms (which once served a congregation of over 2000 in 1931), as well as five stages of varied sizes throughout, serves well the mission of Urban Grace, which is “to serve God and the city through engagement in relationships, study, the arts, and service.”

One way Ydstie creates community is by bringing a wide assortment of businesses and events together under Urban Grace’s roof—with businesses leasing space such as Tacoma Farmers Market, Pregnancy Aid, Tacoma Opera, and Tacoma College Ministry, as well as providing a venue for events, meetings and rehearsals such as Alcoholics Anonymous, MLK Ballet and Tacoma School of the Arts. Every Sunday morning a community breakfast is served to about 300, mostly homeless, individuals by volunteers found throughout Tacoma. All are invited to the chapel service that follows.

Additionally Ydstie, a gifted musician, is the Talent Buyer and part owner of The Warehouse, a production company committed to bringing quality music to Tacoma. He partners with friends, Doug Stoeckicht ’07 and Katie Lowery in this venture.

Their concerts are held in all sorts of venues—art galleries, garages, people’s homes, churches, warehouses, etc. The company takes its support of the arts a step further by providing home-cooked meals and in-home lodging for visiting musicians, as well as giving them the majority of ticket sales—all in an effort to help musicians make a living through their art.

Prior to his current position at Urban Grace, Ydstie filled several different key roles with Associated Ministries in Tacoma, which seeks to unite people of faith to build stronger communities. Recently he has been honored for his visional service to the community including the 2013 “40 under 40” recognition program and a Northwest Leadership Foundation feature on his work.

So how did this Midwest guy land in Tacoma? By way of Trinity Lutheran College. After completing two years of college in Minnesota and spending a year in Guatemala, he wanted to pursue a missions/outreach type degree with a broader perspective. His youth pastor suggested Trinity. Its Multi-cultural (now Intercultural) program drew him in, as well as a recommendation from his well-loved grandfather, Jerry Olstad, a long-time friend of current professor David Ellingson.

While on the Issaquah campus, Ydstie found what he was looking for. Professors Paul Gossman and Mark Gravrock were especially influential. He found Gossman to be “direct, caring and very pastorly.” With insight, Gravrock listened well as Ydstie was processing many questions in his own faith journey regarding the church and organized religion.

“He had a way of seeing into you. He was very personal. There was spiritual direction in our conversations,” Ydstie said.

Ydstie recently married Courtney Beardsley-Schoonmaker, who shares his passion for community, coming at it through the path of education as she works for the Foundation for Tacoma Students.

After graduating from Trinity in 2008, a summer internship brought Ydstie to Tacoma, where he is gladly at home. Passionately, in his unassuming yet very focused way, he stands as a light at the intersection of the sacred and the secular, all the while “maintaining a balance between the two.” And with arms open wide, he invites the greater community to the shelter of Urban Grace, a place where you are welcome to “belong before you believe.” 

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