OF SAN FRANCISCO United Church of Christ
Our Roster of Past Miniters
Sources: A history written in the 1960s; member interviews
Ministers who were officially installed as Pastors of the First Congregational Church of San Francisco.
Timothy Dwight Hunt - 1849-1855
Served as the City Chaplain until this church was organized. Was selected as the church's first Pastor at
the organization of the First Church. After five years he resigned to the East Coast.
Isaac H. Brayton - 1855
Edward S. Lacy - 1856-1865
Served the church eleven years, but had to take long leaves of absence near the end because of seriously failing health.
John C. Holbrook - 1859
Kinsey Twining - 1864 - 1865
F. B. Wheeler - 1865 - 1866
A. L. Stone - 1866-1880
Impairment of speech forced retirement after fourteen years of successful service to this church. He was the Founder of the Pacific School of Religion.
Charles Dana Barrows - 1882-1890
He was able to infuse the public with inspiration and loyalty. Worked unstintingly with little remuneration. After 10 years of service he took a much-needed vacation to his native state. Never returned. Later word camethat he had died in a mental hospital.
S. M. Freeland - 1891
E. B. Webb - 1892
Charles Oliver Brown - 1892-1896
On the surface appearance, was successful in the ministry for four years. Found to be "questionable" in character. Brought "scandal" to the church. Church members divided in the pros and cons - he later admitted guilt of his accusers' claim about him. Because of this, church was closed for five months, with intent of selling property and going to another part of the city and trying to rebuild.
George C. Adams - 1896-1910
Served for fourteen of the most trying years of the history of the church. Brought the church "back into the fold" after former turmoil, only to be faced with putting it all back together again after the earthquake of 1906.
Madison C. Peters - 1910 - 1911
Charles F. Aked - 1911-1916
After five years of service to the church, he asked for leave of absence to go to Europe on a "goodwill" mission with Henry Ford. They hoped to bring about an early "peace" in First World War. He had to be gone longer than expected and he asked for an extension on his leave indefinitely, with pay. He also sent in a separate letter, his resignation, to be used only if they voted to not extend "without pay" his leave. A prominent member of the Deacons chose to present only the letter of resignation for vote. With reluctance they "accepted" the resignation. Upon discovery of the deceit of the Deacon they tried to get enough votes to have him return to our pulpit. Two/thirds vote required could never be reached. The members were split on the subject.
Byron H. Stauffer - 1917 - 1918
Came from Toronto, Canada. Found before him in San Francisco a very difficult task. Sermon topics that went over big in Toronto didn't make a ripple in San Francisco. Late in the year he had an invitation to Winnipeg. He presented his resignation. Left San Francisco one week after his last sermon on December 15.
J. B. Silcox - 1918 - 1919
James Logan Gordon - 1919-1926
At his call, was the oldest minister who had yet served the church. Possessed of a buoyancy and enterprise of youth. Excellent health and enduring strength. He used a "new" method of approach to enthuse the people. By laying aside the usual format of lecturing, he held services called "Question Drawer". Selecting from current events, questions of interest to the general public, he gave the religious and moral implications in the answer. Resigned the ministry of this church at the age of 68 and went into retirement. Attendance numbered in the thousands almost continually.
Chauncey J. Hawkins - 1927-1930
The first native-born Californian to serve the church. Brought increased membership (about 125 each year). His morning services recorded around 800 and the evening services brought 1000 souls to worship in this church. On returning from a vacation, his car rolled over a steep embankment in the mountains. He met a tragic death. The congregation was sorely grieved at the loss.
Kerrison Juniper - 1931-1933
Unable to rally the constituency or arrest the deflationary factors that had set in. Differences arose between him and officers of the church and he closed his Pastorate after fifteen months.
Jason Noble Pierce - 1933-1947
Warmly accepted. Church finances had shrunk to precarious state. In spite of his charm he had no concern or interest in balancing a budget. Church was "saved" financially by merging with Temple Methodist who had met a financial crisis. Methodist Pastor co-worked with Dr. Pierce until temperamental differences beset them it was finally decided to dissolve the union. In 1943 Dr. Noble Pierce suffered failure in coherence of connected thought, but it was slow and gradual in decline until in the summer of '47 it became impossible for him to carry-on. He rendered his resignation.
James Gordon Gilkey, Jr. - 1948-1949
A former Navy Chaplain and son of well-known Congregational Minister in Massachusetts, he felt could do "great" things if he had a "large staff" of his own choosing and a refurbished plant. Resentments put strike one against him when he dismissed all the old staff. Ran the church deeply into debt and resigned within four months. Left San Francisco to take up a position with a soap corporation in an eastern state, leaving the church $20,000 in debt and "no money in sight".
James H. Woodruff - 1949
Was Co-Minister with Gilkey. Automatically and immediately became acting Pastor upon Gilkey's leaving. The load was heavy. He left the church four months later.
William E. McCormack - 1949-1959
He carried the church through years of inertia, as well as spasmodic pulsations of "joiner fever". During the 50's there was a surge of "joining the church because it is the thing to do" attitude. Dr. McCormack seemed well able to fill the need.
Gail Cleland - 1953-1972
Associate minister. Minister emeritus. Bible instructor. Leader in all Christian endeavors. Charming person.
Ernest Stillwell Heeren - 1960-1961
Vere V. Loper - 1961-1962 (Interim)
Harold T. Janes - 1962-1965
Served the church during a revolutionary period when experimental drugs dominated society. Membership
and attendance was haphazard. Died of cerebral hemorrhage while still in Pastorate of this church.
William E. McCormack - 1965-1966 (Interim)
James Clark Brown - 1966 - 1980
A loving, inspirational minister during controversial times in San Francisco. Rev. Brown is still remembered fondly by many long-time members.
Brita Gill - 1977-1980
Associate Minister. First Woman Minister at First Congregational Church.
Otto E. Sommer - 1980-1981 (Interim)
A Conference Minister from Maine
Lois M. Powell - 1981 - 1982 (Interim)
James Claitor - 1982 - 1986
Dr. Richard C. Norberg - 1986-1987 (Interim)
Judith Favor, Paul Chaffee, and Roger Ridgeway --1987-1988
A one-year experiment in team ministry provided interesting insights from a variety of interesting ministers.
Roy Nyren - 1988 - 1995
Led the congregation in becoming the second "open and affirming" church in California, and the 19th in the UCC. Also provided pastoral caire through the loss of several members through the height of the AIDS crisis.
Jim Lawer - 1994-1997
Introduced novel worship services on Sunday mornings, and built a foundation to discuss the church's future.
Robert McGrath - 1997 (Interim)
Catherine Bohrman - 1998 - 2001
Brought the church through the daring decision to sell the building and relocate to another site in San Francisco. A great sermon-giver and guitar player, too!
Record of Intern and Covenant Ministers
Diane Phillips - 1989 - 90
Philip Person - 1990 - 91
Craig Langston - 1991 - 92
Susan Leo - 1992 - 93
Wr'near Wilcox - 1993 - 94
Ruth Sandburg - 1993 - 95
Keith Haithcock - 1995 - 96
Matthew Davis Fox - 2005 - 2006
Covenant Ministers - 1990:
to Welcome Page
Back to Jubilee Celebration Home Page
Back to Top
Last update: April 19, 2008
Back to Top