Mission Beginnings: 1908
St. Paul’s Church began in 1908 as a mission of St. Matthew’s Church, San Mateo to minister to the large number of people who moved to the Peninsula from San Francisco after the great earthquake of 1906.
The first services were held in a storefront building, but the founding group soon obtained a plot of land from the developers and built a small wooden church.
In 1915 St. Paul’s became a diocesan mission with the Rev. William A. Brewer serving as its first Vicar. When it became a self-supporting parish in 1919, he became the first rector of the church. As perennial mayor of Hillsborough and a leader in other civic ventures, Dr. Brewer did a great deal to welcome the many new residents who came to the Burlingame-Hillsborough area during the booming 1920s.
An energetic and well-orchestrated fund-raising drive in 1926 that reached into the broader community enabled St. Paul’s to build the present church in the English Gothic Style. This building and plans for subsequent expansion were designed by architect William C. F. Gillam, a member of the parish.
A Beacon on the Highway
In 1927 the new St. Paul’s sanctuary was dedicated by Bishop Edward Lambe Parsons. At that time he proclaimed it "a beacon on the highway." (The El Camino Real was the main thoroughfare up and down the Peninsula.)
Expansion During Depression
Under the second rector, the Rev. Herald Gardner (1929-1939), the church added the office building and gracious Brewer Hall, which is now used regularly for hospitality hour after both regular Sunday services. During the depression of the 1930s, St. Paul’s suffered some financial pains, but managed to preserve and strengthen its programs. Particularly important were the large Sunday School and youth activities, which, at times, included athletic teams,
The War Years
Under the leadership of the third rector, the Rev. Francis P. Foote (1939-1961), St. Paul’s weathered the war years, then participated in the nationwide postwar expansion of interest in church membership and activities.
To help carry the additional load, the Rev. Richard Coombs came in 1944 as the first in a succession of curates and assistant rectors.
The Hillsborough Circle began the semi-annual rummage sales that continue today as a service to the community and reliable fund-raisers.
In 1952 the original wooden church was replaced with the parish auditorium now known as Foote Hall. This facility has been used for many parish meetings, dinners, and entertainments and is used by many community groups.
When the Mills Estate in North Burlingame and Millbrae was developed into home sites, St. Paul’s led the effort to establish a mission there, the Church of the Ascension. When that mission was closed in 1983, many of its members came to St. Paul’s.
A Strong History In Community Outreach
Under the fourth Rector, the Rev. Alanson Higbie (1961-1979), St. Paul’s directed critical attention to the problems of urban communities on the Peninsula.Mr. Higbie took the lead in forming the county-wide Conference on Religion, Race, and Social Concern.
Members of St. Paul’s joined with those of other Burlingame churches to set up the FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity) program to provide help for elderly, invalid, and otherwise needy persons in the community. St. Paul’s also helped support a Halfway House for released prisoners.
Meanwhile parish life was strengthened by the formation of neighborhood groups. A generous bequest in 1962 by Mrs. Ruth Heimann, made it possible for the church to complete payment for the purchase Heimann Hall as a facility for Christian education, a cooperative nursery school, and meetings for groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Changes with the 80s
The coming of a new rector, the Rev. Stuart P. Coxhead, Jr., in 1980 ( 1980—2001) St. Paul’s brought many changes to the life of St. Paul’s.
A number of outstanding women priests served as his assistants. The church focused a good deal of attention on strengthening Lay leadership in many areas of parish life, forming commissions focused on adult education, children and youth, parish life, as well as stewardship, finance, and buildings and grounds. Special attention was given to the development of the music program, long-range planning, and to membership.
In 2001, despite some strong opposition from the community, St. Paul’s became a member of the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), an ecumenical organization that provides temporary housing in parish facilities for homeless families. Almost 100 members of the parish are involved in this effort.
Following the retirement of the Rev. Coxhead early in 2001, the Rev. Thomas E. Skillings, was called as our new permanent Rector in April of 2002. We look forward in faith to the exciting future of worship, witness, and service that lies before us.
St Pauls Burlingame