MCC-SF congregation sees major changes

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday February 15, 2023
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Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco now holds worship services at Trinity Episcopal Church at Bush and Gough streets. Photo: Courtesy NoeHill in San Francisco
Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco now holds worship services at Trinity Episcopal Church at Bush and Gough streets. Photo: Courtesy NoeHill in San Francisco

Metropolitan Community Church San Francisco has seen changes over the past few months with the departure of its pastor and a new location for its services.

The Reverend Annie Steinberg-Behrman, a lesbian, retired from full-time ministry on January 15, according to an email from MCC-SF.

"After two years as a staff member, one year as provisional pastor, and five years as our senior pastor, the congregation will miss Annie terribly," Chris Starr, the clerk of MCC-SF's board of directors, stated in an email to the Bay Area Reporter. "We would have loved for her to have continued as our senior pastor and wish her well in her retirement. With God we say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

Steinberg-Behrman declined a request for comment from the B.A.R.

She did reference her decision to retire in a new year's-themed email sent December 30.

"My intentions for the new year are to live in love as much as I can and to be true to myself and others. No matter what 2023 brings, Love will see me through," Steinberg-Behrman wrote. "2023 brings transition as I move into retirement and for you as you move to a new worship space and leadership. Remember YOU are the church, you hold the history and the future of MCC-SF. I will continue to hold you in my heart and prayers as I love you so much and always will. You are a remarkable church community with enormous hearts. I look forward to hearing about all of the wonderful ministry you are doing together."

Starr stated that the congregation is looking for a pastor.

"We are currently in contact with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in search of an interim (pastor) to lead us in the short term before proceeding on our search for a permanent senior pastor to lead us into the future," Starr stated.

MCC-SF's board of directors stated in an email that "Before Annie's retirement service, the board reached out to, and are in regular contact with, the denomination to start the process. We are not searching for a new senior pastor at this time, but are looking for someone to work with us in some sort of interim process. We will keep you up to date with announcements during the Sunday service as we have any new information on the process we can share."

Meanwhile, members can send their own reflections to the board so congregants can get to know one another.

"During this period where we are without pastoral leadership, the board has been reaching out to ordained clergy to deliver our reflections on Sundays," the email stated. "We also would love to have this period be a time where we tell our stories to each other. If you would be willing to share the story of your spiritual life path, the path that brought you to MCCSF and your first experiences with us, or something similar, please reach out to either Lisa Eller or Chris Starr, or email [email protected]. You'd only need to speak for 10 to 15 minutes during our reflection time."

Construction has started on a condo project at the site of the old MCC-SF building in the Castro. Photo: John Ferrannini  

New church location
Starr stated that the congregation's last Sunday service at the First Congregational Church building at 1300 Polk Street was held January 15, and that on January 22 the congregation began meeting at St. Mary's Chapel at Trinity and St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which is located at Bush and Gough streets in the historic building.

(The two Episcopalian congregations have worshiped together at the historic Trinity building since 2012)

"With this move, we have changed our Sunday service time to 9 a.m., both in person and on Zoom, and will be continuing our Wednesday evening contemplative service at 7 p.m., also both in-person and on Zoom," Starr stated.

Starr and the board of directors did not respond to a request for comment asking why there'd been a move from First Congregational to the Trinity building.

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was founded by gay former Pentecostal pastor Troy Perry in 1968 to be a specifically-LGBTQ affirming Christian denomination. There are over 200 congregations worldwide, including San Francisco's, which met at 150 Eureka Street in the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood till 2015, when it moved to 1300 Polk Street.

MCC-SF sold the Castro property — and an apartment building it owned — due to the high cost of repairing the aging structure, as the B.A.R. reported at the time.

The building was sold and the new owner, developer David R. Papale, agreed to partially preserve it in 2018 by including a portion of its existing facade into a new condominium development, as the B.A.R. reported at the time.

Starr stated that, "We don't have any information on the old Eureka location."

Construction has started on the condo project at the former MCC-SF building in the Castro.

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