A Mission of St. Matthews:
St. Paul’s began in 1908 as a mission of St. Matthew’s Episcopal of 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 service was held on February 16, 1908 above Jacob and Rose Weinberg’s dry goods store, which was located near the current site of the parking lot for Steelhead Brewery. For the next year, the church shared space at Weinberg Hall with many other organizations, such as the fire and police departments, in the newly incorporated Town of Burlingame.
Within a year, a small wood and stucco building with seating capacity of 125 was completed for St. Paul’s use near the current church parking lot on Occidental and Chapin.
Obtaining Independent (i.e. non-mission) Status
In 1915, the California diocese assumed responsibility for the mission church of St. Paul’s and the congregation was put under the strong leadership of The Rev. William A. Brewer. Brewer was well-known to the community. He had just closed the renowned St. Matthew’s Military Academy and he was the Mayor of Hillsborough, having served in that role since the town’s incorporation in 1910. Brewer was also the son of St. Matthew’s first rector, The Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer. Under William Brewer’s leadership, St. Paul’s membership swelled so that by 1920, the congregation was able to take full responsibility for its own finances (and thus moved out from under Dicoesean mission status and to be a self-governing parish).
Building a Beautiful Structure
Burlingame’s population grew from 4,000 to 11,500 between 1920 and 1925. The church grew as well and soon outgrew its meeting space. In 1921, St. Paul’s bought the old Easton School at 1337 Cortez Avenue. For several years during the 20s, the old school served as a North Burlingame branch of St. Paul’s, with its own separate Sunday School. Sunday evening services were held there once a month. By 1924, St. Paul’s church leadership began plans to build a bigger building. A fundraising campaign began and the North Burlingame hall was sold to the Roman Catholics for $10,000. In February 1927 St. Paul’s dedicated the current worship space in a service attended by over 2,000 people.
Spawning a new mission church
After World War II, the population on the Peninsula soared again, with new housing developments being built on the former Mills Estate and in other previously undeveloped areas. During this time, St. Paul’s spawned its own parish mission, the Church of the Ascension, on Mariposa Drive in the hills of the Mills Estate. This church operated from 1958 until it closed in 1979.
Serving as a Beacon of Light to the Community
By the 1970s, the populations of Burlingame and Hillsborough reached their peaks and have remained relatively stable at approximately 30,000 and 11,500 respectively. In the last 4-5 decades, St. Paul’s has continued to shine the light of Christ into the community by actively participating in numerous outreach programs, such as Friends in Service to Humanity or FISH (providing rides for the elderly to medical appointments); Habitat for Humanity (building affordable homes); C.A.L.L. Primrose (providing food to those in need); Home and Hope (providing counseling and temporary shelter in churches for homeless families); and Holiday food and gift drives.
St. Paul’s Chancel Choir, as well as St. Paul’s Choir School, are additional bright beacons of light that shine forth brightly into the community from St. Paul. The St. Paul’s Choir School was founded in 2007, offering first-rate vocal training for youth in grades K – 12. Based in the rigorous and acclaimed Royal School of Church Music training program, the Choir School has served more than 130 San Francisco Bay Area children, many on scholarship.
Lastly, no history of St. Paul’s outreach would be complete without mentioning the Circle of St. Paul’s and their principal activity, which is the twice-yearly rummage sale. The rummage sale has become a major destination for serious shoppers. The proceeds of the rummage sales, which have taken place faithfully since the 1930s, now exceeds $1,000,000 and is part of the line-item budget for St. Paul’s.
Beginning our Second Century
St. Paul’s has been blessed with strong and stable leadership throughout its 100+ years. The average length of each rector’s call has been almost 20 years! As we enter our second century on the mid-Peninsula, we hope you will join us in the prayer we pray each Sunday:
Gracious and loving God, help us this day to understand and celebrate your dream for the world, to be transformed in Jesus’ love, and to use our gifts to make a difference for others.
For a detailed history of St. Paul’s, please see The Story of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Burlingame, California; Its History and Its People 1908 to the Present, Burlingame, California: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1997, available in church library.