Noe Valley Voice February 2009

Bethany Moves to the Mission During Renovation

By Corrie M. Anders

One-hundred-year-old Bethany United Methodist Church has a new house of worship--at least temporarily. For the next few years, the congregation will hold services in the Mission District while major renovations are under way at Bethany's aging sanctuary at the corner of Sanchez and Clipper streets.

The church relocated Jan. 11 to the Bethany Center at 580 Capp Street near 21st Street. It will share space with the center, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and other services to low-income people.

The church does not have a precise timetable for completing the extensive remodeling project and getting the 150-member congregation back to its Noe Valley roots.

"If the city of San Francisco cooperates [with building permits], we anticipate being back in the building in two years," said Dr. Judson O. Gears, who became Bethany's pastor last August.

The modernization and earthquake-retrofitting project, estimated to cost $3 million, will include replacing the foundation, modernizing all bathrooms, and adding an elevator and a second lift to make the church more accessible for disabled and senior parishioners.

Architects have designed a new courtyard entrance off Sanchez Street, where there will be a new elevator to the sanctuary. The lift at the Clipper Street entry will be upgraded.

"The new elevator will get you to the second floor, where there will be Sunday school and office space," Gears said.

Churchgoers will see a new façade when they return. "The present brick façade is not going to survive, and it's going to be taken off," he said. The new exterior will "be closer to what it looked like when it was built" in 1908.

In addition, chairs are likely to replace the long wooden benches in the sanctuary. The new seating will be the kind that can be reconfigured for musical events or other activities, Gears noted.

Last summer, the United Methodist Church asked Gears, who had been retired, to take over the pastorate following the two-year tenure of the Rev. Lauren Chaffee.

"The opening was they invited me to come in on an interim basis to fill in. I'll be here at least this year," and his stay is renewable on a year-to-year basis.

Gears, 67, and his wife, Betty, relocated to Noe Valley from the Grass Valley area. They reside at Bethany's Duncan Street parsonage.