The History of St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter's is the fifth oldest Episcopal congregation in the city of San Francisco (eighth in the Diocese). We originated as a choir of Grace Church, San Francisco, in the Spring of 1867. A vested choir of men and boys was a controversial innovation at the time, well received by some, and highly disliked by others who saw it as being too "Pope-ish." After four Sundays of singing, the choir was dismissed, along with their supporters who left to form St. Peter's congregation on August 25,1867. We joined the Episcopal Diocese of California the following Spring. St. Peter’s has carried and nurtured by a creative and innovative spirit ever since.

Our first services were held in a Baptist church on Fifth Street and Market. Then we moved to the British Benevolent Association until we completed construction of our first building on the corner of Filbert and Stockton. Our church and pipe organ were fully paid for and the building consecrated by Bishop William Ford Nichols on Palm Sunday 1903.

Three years later, on April 18,1906, the wooden building was completely destroyed by the earthquake and fire. All that remains of the first St. Peter's Church is the charred central portion of the processional cross. Services continued in a temporary building on Jones Street near Green. It took us seven years to regroup, build a new brick church on 29th Avenue, and move to the new location. The congregation thrived in its new location until…..

The earthquake of October 17,1989, shook St. Peters harder than any other Episcopal church in the city, rendering the Nave unusable. Since then the congregation has worshiped in Collins Hall, developing a liturgy which is more meditative and intimate. We raised the money to strengthen our other buildings to meet seismic retrofit standards and began exploring designs for retrofitting and revitalizing the Nave, little knowing the journey we were beginning at that time.

We explored a number of possibilities to reinforce the existing building. None proved workable or affordable. Then our focus began to shift from simply “How do we rebuild for us?” to “Who are we being called upon to serve?” The passage from Jeremiah: “Seek the welfare of the city and it’s peace and you will find your own.”, became the touchstone for our emerging self-understanding. We explored housing for Seniors, Teachers, and other “servants of the city”. Then “Opportunities Unlimited” (a day-program for people with Developmental Disabilities) asked if they could rent space while their building was being retrofitted. Fr. Rickey was asked to be on the Board of Directors, and began to discern the need for affordable housing for this underserved population.

We partnered with Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center to develop the housing and continued to explore how to rebuild our church. However the needs of the housing began to dictate the design of the church, as the people of St. Peter’s learned more deeply what it means to serve others instead of “self”. The journey has been a long and arduous process, but it has brought the congregation to a new vision and new life.

We now have turned the Rectory into residence for Veterans from Ft. Miley. This ministry has developed another layer of compassionate service as well as bringing in new members to the congregation.

In May of 2011 we opened St. Peter's Place, with 21 beautiful units of Affordable Housing. The Congregation first moved to a place of worship at the Interfaith Center and Chapel at the Presidio. This "discovery" has opened up a whole new level to our spiritual journey by connecting us to one of the the most dynamic centers of Interfaith dialogue in this country, perhaps the world. On Sept 21st of 2011 we moved to the Chapel at the Sisters of the Presentation, a lovely and more accesible worship space on Turk Blvd. at Masonic. Meanwhile, we are exploring a whole new direction for worship and for serving others, quite likely developing a partnership with the VA and CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness through Education in Food Services). We continue to thrive and grow as a vibrant Episcopal congregation, seeking, as we have from the beginning, to live according to our inner spiritual Truth.