by Lynn Jordan
On February 22, 1970 Howard Wells conducts the first morning worship service of Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco in “The Upper Room” of Jackson’s Bar on Powell Street, near Bay Street.
Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco (MCCSF) is chartered on April 26, 1970 as the second church in what would become the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The charter states our primary purpose is “to bind together the children of God for the the purpose of sharing in the worship of God in the Christian tradition…”
On September 13, 1970, MCCSF moves to California Hall and conducts it first spiritual renewal service in the 1000 seat auditorium. Rev. Troy Perry was invited to preach at the worship service. An estimated 825 people attended.
On June 20, 1971, members of MCC congregations in solidarity with the gay community march from Lake Merritt in Oakland to the state capital in Sacramento for a statewide rally on June 25, 1971 in support of the A.B. 437 sponsored by assemblyman Willie Brown of San Francisco. A.B. 437 proposed the repeal of sex crime laws and sodomy statues used to harass and discriminate against the GLBT community.
The Rev Jim Sandmire is elected MCCSF’s pastor upon the resignation of Rev. Howard Wells in October 1971.
In 1972, the use of inclusive, gender-neutral, language in our worship services and church hymns begins. Women’s participation increases in all aspects of worship and programming.
An Easter Sunrise Service was held by MCCSF at the Big Town Baths on Folsom Street, replete with baptisms and “fellowship.”
A bar ministry begins wherein members of our church went into the gay/lesbian bars and passed out invitations to the patrons reading “bring a trick to church”.
Rev. Sandmire also began to experiment with different and innovative worship service formats reflective of a congregation that was from diverse religious backgrounds.
A prison ministry at Atascadero State Hospital and California Men’s Colony (near San Luis Obispo) was begun after we won our (Federal) law suit that allowed us to provide worship services in Federal and State prisons and hospitals.
On July 27, 1973 the church sustained heavy damage from an arson fire and could not be used for worship. On July 29, over 500 members of our church, the LGBT community and political leaders from the city and the state, marched in procession, with police protection, from the burned out church to our host church, Mission United Presbyterian Church, at 23rd & Capp Streets.
On June 14,1973, MCCSF directors James Earl Sandmire, Daryl Earl Goodrick, Herman L. Mank, Jr. execute our Articles of Incorporation and file for and receive recognition as a nonprofit corporation with the state of California on July 30, 1973. The articles of incorporation state: “The specific and primary purposes for which this corporation is formed are to worship God in the Congregational Christian tradition…”
In the fall of ’73 and continuing throughout ’74, Rev. Jim Sandmire began discussing the basic principles of a restructured community of believers within MCC-SF, which he called the “New Zion” and included Covenant Relationships (“Zion Families”) and Christ-centeredness.
Rev. Jim Sandmire establishes “parishes” for the members of the church, based on postal codes, and assigned a deacon to each “parish.”
Rev. Jim Sandmire resigns as pastor of MCCSF to become pastor of MCC Los Angeles in March 1975.
Rev. John Barbone was elected pastor in May 1975 but resigned after only one year of ministry.
Rev. Charles Larsen was elected senior pastor of “a church in crisis” in May 1976.
In March 1976, the SFPD began its first “cultural awareness week” at the SF Police Academy. MCCSF provided volunteers to speak with cadets at the police academy about their life experience as openly gay/lesbian and led educational tours of gay-identified areas of SF.
Rev. Charles Larsen resigned as senior pastor in October 1978.
1977 The focus of MCC-SF and the GLBT community throughout California was (successfully!) defeating the Briggs Initiative “Prop 6″ which would have disqualified gay and lesbian teachers from public schools in California and forbidden any factual portrayals of homosexuality in public schools.
In November 1978, Rev. Jim Dykes was called as our fourth pastor. He searched for a church building to purchase in the Castro and began a fundraising campaign for the down payment.
In the spring of 1979 we began negotiating the purchase of the Voice of Pentecost Church at 150 Eureka Street for $200,000. Our first formal worship services at 150 Eureka Street were held in June 1979.
1981 – 1982
The Rev. Jim Dykes resigns as pastor In July 1981 and the Rev. Michael England is appointed as our 6th pastor. Working with the Rev. Janie Spahr – a Presbyterian minister who was our Director of Pastoral Care – they set up a task force with a commission to increase the attendance and membership of women in the congregation.
1983 – 1984
AIDS groups are invited to have their meetings at 150 Eureka Street rent-free in 1983. Many AIDS/HIV groups have their beginnings at MCCSF including the San Francisco AIDS Project and Act Up San Francisco.
1985 – 1986
Rev. Michael England resigns as pastor effective April 30, 1985. On May 28, a majority of the congregation appointed Coni Staff and Linton Stables as interim lay co-worship coordinators until May 1986. In October, the Board of Directors adds Roger Tinsman as the third co-worship coordinator.
At the May 1986 congregational meeting Rev. Jim Mitulski is elected as the 7th senior pastor of MCCSF.
1987 – 1988
The first MCCSF Men’s Group begins meeting on Wednesday nights in January and the “Antibody Negative” Support Group began its first meetings and a support group for AIDS caregivers is established. The monthly peer support group is for those who are providing support to persons with AIDS or ARC personally or professionally. The AIDS Ministry Team began “The Second Annual AIDS Forum” on Wednesdays in May 1988.
The AIDS Ministry Team of our church was established to provide “individual support volunteers” for persons affected by AIDS or ARC who wished to share in fellowship with other people of faith.
On May 1, 1988 Women’s Programming established six general areas of interest in which to concentrate their energy and efforts: Spiritual Growth/Religious Education; Personal Growth/Healing/Pastoral Care; Sports and Recreation; Social Inreach; Outreach Ad Hoc Committees Spiritual Issues and AIDS.
On January 8 MCCSF sponsored “Until that Last Breath: Women with AIDS” – a visual arts exhibit in the church sanctuary. “Through photographic, video, and writing, the exhibit portrays through tender, intimate images of the personal struggles, hopes, and fears of women with AIDS. “
On March 10, A Lenten Ecumenical Worship Experience “WE HAVE AIDS” was held at MCCSF. The event was sponsored by the Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches, U.S A. with Rev. Ron Russell-Coons – a contributor to the book AIDS Issues: Confronting the Challenge.
A memorial service was held on May 20 for Rev. Jim Sandmire, 2nd senior pastor of MCCSF and on September 2 for Rev. Howard Wells the founding pastor of MCCSF– both of whom had died of AIDS.
On May 28, an AIDS healing service was held at MCCSF: “We are the Body of Christ …and We Have AIDS”.
On March 20, 1990: “A Celebration of Lives” is the first in a series of monthly gatherings at MCCSF to honor our losses and ourselves. The gathering offers an “opportunity to acknowledge and talk proudly as community about the people in our lives who have died or who are dying.”
The first worship service focused on the ‘feminine divine’ – called “One of Many Names” – was held in our sanctuary on September 12, 1990.
Recognizing the need for a supportive place for those who are still experiencing their grief, MCCSF began holding special “Rituals of Remembrance” services every four months beginning in May 1991.
1992 – 1993
On September 23, 1992, MCCSF conducts a “Death & Dying” forum that includes an interfaith perspective from a Buddhist Monk, a Rabbi and a Christian minister.
On February 21, 1993 the first new stained glass window – the ‘faith’ window” in the church sanctuary was dedicated in memory of Martin Upp. The window was one of twelve stained glass windows designed and installed by Ken Scott illustrating the theme “Heavenly Winds: Breath of the Divine.”
AIDS had become the leading cause of death for all Americans age 25 to 44 and will remain so through 1995. MCCSF newsletters/church bulletins will list under “Cycles of Life” an average of three to five memorial services a week at the church into 1995.
MCCSF begins a new support group: “HIV in Women’s Lives” April 5, 1994.
On September 24, 1994, MCCSF hosts “A Moral Response to Proposition 187” – a faith-based lesbian/gay perspective on this initiative – at our church. Our pastor, Rev. Jim Mitulski, called Proposition 187 the Briggs Initiative of the 1990’s.
Prayer at the Heart, Taizé-style services, begin on Wednesday, February 1, 1995
On July 19, 1995 an HIV Community Forum “An Examination of Issues for HIV- Negative Men” was sponsored by MCCSF. The forum raised the question of the different issues facing HIV+ and HIV- men.
Rev. Penny Nixon was installed as Associate Pastor of MCCSF on February 25, 1996.
MCCSF schedules an initial meeting to discuss and plan the formation of a non-profit foundation, the Metropolitan Community Foundation (MCF), on April 25, 1996.
In response to the actions of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, MCC San Francisco enacted the “The Medical Marijuana Relief Effort” on Sunday, August 18, 1996. Rev. Jim Mitulski – our Senior Pastor – announced that it was the intent of the church to distribute a limited amount of marijuana for medicinal use, at no charge, in the sanctuary.
The first-ever Easter Eve sunset worship service (vespers) was held on Saturday, March 19, 1997 at Mt. Davidson. The 103-foot cross on Mt. Davison was bathed in rainbow-colored lights.
“With so many people living longer and living better because of new therapies, this feels fresh and exciting to us”, said Pastor Rev. Jim Mitulski. “We were looking for a dramatic venue for telling the story about what resurrection means to us. We want to reclaim the symbol that for so long has repressed us…”
Women were invited to experience embodied spirituality through Saturday evening worship celebrations (August 9, September 20, and November 18) with feminist liturgy called Women Together in Spirit ’97.
MCCSF responds to homelessness and hunger on November 5, 1997 with a pilot program – Simply Supper – serving food on Wednesdays & Fridays.
MCC SF schedules four nights of prayer and testimony – with special music by combined church choirs – on October 5 –8 in response to a series of condemnations of homosexuality as a “sin” by the Catholic bishops, the Rev. Billy Graham and the Promise Keepers. At least 11 affirming San Francisco churches and ministries participated in this 4-night revival called This is Our Story.
Rev. Jim Mitulski and Rev. Penny Nixon become co-pastors in February 1998.
Matthew Shepard, 21, a gay University of Wyoming student murdered on October 12, and MCCSF holds a candlelight vigil in response.
MCCSF is the first community-based organization to partner with Kaiser Permanente in offering a special six-week series of workshops called “Positive Self-Management” designed to teach people living with AIDS, newly diagnosed longterm survivors, and their caregivers how to take control of their lives.
MCCSF Women began providing meals on the first and third Thursdays of the month for those exchanging needles and volunteer at the ‘Women’s Prevention Program” at Dolores Street Community Services.
On April 26, MCC San Francisco celebrates its 30 years of “Making Things Happen” with a worship service and open house at 150 Eureka in cooperation with the GLBT Historical Society.
To create more diversity at MCCSF, the “Race Connection Series” begins in July. These gatherings allowed different racial groups to come together in the sharing of stories, issues, and desires around race: People of Color Connecting; Mixed Race People Connecting, Mixed Race Couples Connecting; White People Dealing with Race/Racism Connecting.
Senior pastor/Co-pastor Rev. Jim Mitulski, leaves MCCSF on December 3, after 14+ years of dedicated service. In his honor The Jim Mitulski HIV/AIDS Legacy Fund was established.
Rev. Penny Nixon is appointed and installed as the senior pastor of MCC San Francisco.
On June 3, MCCSF conducts a worship service to honor Health Care Workers Local 250, SEIU, AFL-CIO and Commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the AIDS Epidemic.
In April 2002, MCCSF formed an “Care Team” for members of our church who were home for extended illnesses, require assistance with medical treatment, and require home-care assistance and/or visitation. Volunteers from our congregation formed the “Care Team”.
On November 22, the 3rd annual Circles of Hope Gala – benefiting the Metropolitan Community Foundation – is titled “Circles of Hope 2002: A Tribute to Coretta Scott King” at the Fairmont Hotel.
In January, new Buddhist “Mindful Mondays” begin for those who attended the November and December Buddhist workshops. On February 3, MCCSF began offering a weekly Buddhist service called “Mindful Mondays” facilitated by Ji-Sing. On March 24, “The Buddha, the Christ, and the Goddess” was presented.
A March 2 worship program caption reads for the first time: ”Welcome to MCC San Francisco, A Spiritual Home for Queer People.”
On June 23, it was noted that over the past 25 years MCC San Francisco has lost well over 500 members to the AIDS pandemic.
The Sunday, August 24, 2003 Church Bulletin included the logo (for the first time): “MCC San Francisco – A House of Prayer for all People. A Home for Queer Spirituality”
On November 30, MCCSF commemorates World AIDS Day worship services with the dedication of our AIDS quilt holding the names of scores of family and friends in a spiral.
In 2004, Metropolitan Community Foundation passes a major landmark: the 100,000th guest to share a meal and be in community with Simply Supper.
MCCSF held i