Two San Francisco congregations change venue, find opportunity

Posted on September 29, 2009
Two San Francisco congregations are finding that a change to their worship space can reveal new opportunities.

Trinity, San Francisco

By now, many of you have heard that the congregation of Trinity, San Francisco , must suspend use of its historic church while the seismic health of the building is determined.  At this point, it is not known how long that process will take, nor if the evaluation will reveal that any retrofitting is required.  As the church looks forward, all available avenues are being explored. 

As often happens when a church begins looking realistically at some of the issues connected with their buildings, they find it more freeing than negative. “In this case, it was the wonderful building that they have that we've suspected for a long time is not seismically up to code,” said The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe. “The decision was made that until we are able to get the complete information on the structural health of the main sanctuary and figure out how we might be able to resource what we know may be a rather expensive project, that Trinity is going to be meeting in their gorgeous chapel.

“This doesn't mean that the church is going to be closing down, but that they will be looking at ministry in a new way.”

Trinity's junior warden, Sandy Kameron, said, “Through our bishop's dream of Area Ministry, we are opening our hearts and minds to new possibilities as a passionate, lay-led congregation.  Guided by the generosity, imagination, and pastoral care of our volunteer clergy and working together in lay ministry teams to breathe fresh life into our vision, we are discovering new ways to serve by sharing our God-given gifts, our talents and our love.  We will continue to find ways to say "thank you" for those gifts by offering them in service to others, and by striving to be the face of God's love in this world.” 

Kameron summed it up, “There is one thing has not changed: whether we sing our Alleluias under towering gothic arches or in the tender embrace of our Mary's Chapel, we are still Trinity Church, alive and well and worshipping at the corner of Bush and Gough, and all are welcome.”

St. Peter's, San Francisco

As San Francisco marks the 20th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, a church devastated by the shaker celebrates the opening of a new chapter in its 142-year history with the groundbreaking on an innovative building project, an expansion into the wider interfaith community, and establishment of a worldwide presence with live streaming on the Internet.

St. Peter's , founded in 1867, has survived two major earthquakes and is now breaking ground on a $6 million housing project for developmentally disabled adults.  The housing development, one of the few of its kind, provides the opportunity for independent living to a severely under-served segment of the population.  The project includes 20 units to be built on 29th Avenue near Clement Street in the Outer Richmond District, where the church stood until its demolition this past summer.  The old church building suffered structural damage in the quake on October 17, 1989, and civic authorities declared it unfit for use. The church will refurbish the still-standing parish hall as a worship space adjacent to the rectory, which has been converted to transitional housing for veterans.

Meanwhile the congregation has moved its regular services temporarily to the Interfaith Center in the Presidio.  The move has nurtured close partnerships with other religions; for instance, an Israeli Arab recently gave a guest sermon about grassroots efforts to build a peace coalition of Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land. 

The Rev. David Rickey, St. Peter's vicar, said he is also excited that the Interfaith Center launched its Internet initiative with St. Peter's services on Sunday mornings.  Those unable to attend the 10 a.m. Eucharist can log on at to join the event in real time.

“While I don't expect the Internet church service to ever replace live attendance - you can't receive Communion online - this has provided an alternative to congregation members who are either traveling or sick,” Rickey said. “In addition, a number of people in other states and countries are logging on to the services and emailing me comments or critiques of my sermons even before the service is over.  I have to keep my iPhone on vibrate to avoid disruption of the solemn rituals.  Everybody's a critic, and now they all have a chance to chime in.”