SF Bethany UMC Launches New Home This Weekend
Photos by Marshal Cousins.
Celebration begins Aug. 26, continues Sept. 15
By Bruce Pettit
Member, Bethany UMC
Bethany United Methodist Church of San Francisco will officially launch its new $3.5 million facility this Sunday (Aug. 26) with a Grand Opening worship service – and on Saturday, Sept. 15 with an Open House for the city's Noe Valley community.
The renovation retained some of the old fixtures of the church, including some of the painted glass. The centerpiece of the new sanctuary is a window depicting the Good Samaritan story: the cornerstone of Christianity's social outreach.
Bethany has invited many of the people who have been associated with it throughout the years to be a part of the Grand Opening worship that starts at 10:45 a.m. on the 26th. It hopes its neighbors will turn out on Sept. 15 from noon to 4 p.m., and will envision parts of the 13,000-square foot renovation for community meeting space and for concerts in its acoustically friendly sanctuary.
Not incidentally, Bethany hopes many of its neighbors will join the congregation.
The church thus joyously ends a 14-year journey – which involved six successive pastors – to upgrade its corner of Clipper and Sanchez Streets.
The journey started when Bethany merged with Trinity UMC in 1998. Trinity's home at Noe and Market Streets was victim of an arson fire in 1981 and the church was never able to rebuild. For seven of those 14 years, Bethany debated whether to sell the Clipper/Sanchez facility and use proceeds to build at Noe/Market, or to sell Noe/Market for a Clipper/Sanchez renovation. It decided on the latter course in 2005, in part because of the larger selling price of the Market Street property.
The next seven years involved getting "wish lists" from the congregation of what it wanted in new spaces, paring the wish lists to budget realities, and then designing and building.
John Nelson, a Bethany member who professionally oversees building projects nationwide for City Bank, was instrumental in the work of the building committee throughout the 14 years. (He is a former chair of the conference trustees.) Nelson headed the church's negotiations with the architect, John Goldman, and the main contractor, Teamwrkz of San Jose, to achieve the best facility possible with the money at hand.
The congregation worshiped in "exile" at Bethany Senior Housing Center, in the city's Mission District, for three and a half years, as the church vacated the old facility and endured the city's slow-moving permitting process. Bethany church had a role in helping build Bethany Center in the 1960s on land that had been the site of a UMC there.
Bethany started its rebuilding journey with the Rev. Karen Oliveto (now pastor of Glide Memorial UMC), and ends it with the Rev. Kristin Sachen. The Rev. Judson Gears came out of retirement for two years to help Bethany make some final decisions and to help secure funding loans.
The congregation in 1984 was one of the first Reconciling Congregations of the UMC. Accordingly, it originally was eager to relocate in the city's Castro District (Noe/Market).
Today, gay and lesbian people reside more evenly throughout the city.
Bruce Pettit is a current – and former – employee of the California-Nevada Annual Conference. Having worked in the office of what was the Golden Gate District, he now is employed at the Board of Pensions offices. Bruce also served on the erstwhile Conference Communications Commission.