First Mennonite Church, originally a member of the General Conference and Pacific District Conference, began in 1975 when James and Leanna Rhodes felt called to start a church on the California West Coast and selected San Francisco, a city without a Mennonite church They moved from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and began a house church in the Haight Ashbury District, naming the group Haight Ashbury Mennonite Fellowship.
To finance themselves James taught in the Westmont College Urban Program, and Leanna worked as a nurse. The first meetings of the Fellowship took place in their home in 1975. They were joined by a Mennonite Voluntary Service group, which had relocated from Stockton to San Francisco that same year. The church grew slowly and was formally organized in 1976 with 10-12 people present. From those modest beginnings, the church grew to 82 members by 2013 with approximately 100 people attending on Sunday morning. In 1994 the southern half of the Pacific District Conference merged with the Southwest Mennonite Conference to form the dual-conference Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, and the General Conference integrated with the Mennonite Conference to become Mennonite Church USA in 2002. Both of these became the new conferences for First Mennonite, San Francisco. Members of the church have participated in the work of the regional California conference as moderator, treasurer, editor of the newsletter, and members of the executive board and of the ministerial leadership committees.
Currently the congregation enjoys a rich and active worship life with four-part a capella singing and the use of various musical instruments. During the school year both children and adults participate in education classes. At least five classes are offered for children and youth of different age groups and several more for adults. Between the worship and the education hours a popular, and often raucous, time for fellowship is held when the scattered members of the congregation have an opportunity to visit with one another. First Mennonite welcomes visitors. It is a rare Sunday when there are no guests either from the neighborhood or from a distance. Members of the congregation created their own Confession of Faith and are invited to demonstrate their commitment by signing it annually.
First Mennonite Church of San Francisco follows the Anabaptist tradition of community, discipleship, peacemaking, and service. One of the ministries supported by the church is the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). The church owns the building that houses the MVS unit, located in the lower Haight Ashbury District, and a church member is the program coordinator. Since its inception in 1975, 100 MVS workers have participated in the San Francisco unit, serving the homeless, helping people with HIV/Aids, assisting needy children through recreation and the arts, promoting fair trade products, and supporting environmental awareness. Another service supported by First Mennonite is Health in Harmony, a health clinic in Indonesia that was founded and is still administered (2013) by a medical doctor who is a member of the church. For many years members of the congregation have made a quilt that is auctioned at the Mennonite Relief Sale in Fresno, California, and have, along with other Mennonites in the Bay Area, assisted with the Ten Thousand Villages program. Throughout the years, people from First Mennonite have served in Mennonite Central Committee in both the United States and around the world.
First Mennonite is also a member of the Supportive Congregations Network of the Brethren-Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests, actively seeking justice and inclusion for the LGBT people in the Mennonite Church. Sheri Hostetler is the current (2013) pastor of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco.
Basinger, Doug. Interview by author. San Francisco, CA (May 2013).
Address: 290 Dolores Street, San Francisco, CA 94141
First Mennonite Church of San Francisco Pastors
|Joyce and Don Wyse|
|Date Published||May 2013|
Cite This Article
Ruth, Corinna. "First Mennonite Church of San Francisco (San Francisco, California, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2013. Web. 4 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=First_Mennonite_Church_of_San_Francisco_(San_Francisco,_California,_USA)&oldid=101623.
Ruth, Corinna. (May 2013). First Mennonite Church of San Francisco (San Francisco, California, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=First_Mennonite_Church_of_San_Francisco_(San_Francisco,_California,_USA)&oldid=101623.
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