Noe Valley Voice May 2012

Bethany Church Almost Home

Congregation Hopes for June Reopening on Sanchez Street

By Tim Innes

Workers were putting the final touches on a $3 million renovation of Bethany United Methodist Church this spring. While replacing the foundation and shoring up the walls of the 104-year-old building, they were careful to protect the stained-glass windows.    Photo by Pamela Gerard


After a 3-1/2-year absence, the congregation of Bethany United Methodist Church at  Sanchez and Clipper streets hopes to return home next month.

“We should have all the permits signed off by June 4,” said the Rev. Kristin Sachen, Bethany’s pastor. “Then we can start moving back in. We’re planning a ‘soft opening’ in June, followed by an official launch before school starts in August.”

While the 70-member congregation has been away—they’ve been worshipping at Bethany Center in the Mission—an army of masons, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians have swarmed over the 104-year-old building at 1268 Sanchez St. Although the main focus of the $3 million renovation has been to make sure the sanctuary and church hall are structurally sound, nothing, from the bottom of the elevator pit to the top of the steeple, has been overlooked.

Before remodeling could even begin, the workers had to erect a 140-foot-long retaining wall, install drainage, replace the foundations of both buildings, and shore up the walls of the sanctuary.

“It’s been a huge challenge,” said Byron Nobriga, project superintendent for San Jose–based Teamwrkx, the general contractor. “The office building sagged five inches because a leaky sewer pipe had undermined the foundation, there was bad rot in some of the [eight] corner posts of the sanctuary, and the walls were several inches out of plumb due to the weight of the roof,” he said.

Although much of the work isn’t obvious to the casual observer, regular church-goers will see plenty of changes. The formerly dark sanctuary is now bathed in light. A sunny courtyard connects the sanctuary and the redesigned administration building. There’s a new entrance on Sanchez Street. And there are new bathrooms, kitchen, and elevator.

Plumbing, heating, and electrical systems have all been upgraded. New doors are being hung. Floors are being refinished and walls painted. And the buckled sidewalk along Clipper is being replaced. Even the worn ropes and pulleys in the belfry have been repaired, allowing the bells to be rung on Sunday mornings.

“When we’re done, the church should be good for another 100 years,” Nubriga said.

Though much has changed, longtime members will find that the sanctuary’s stained-glass windows and vaulted redwood ceiling have been carefully preserved. The old wooden pews, however, are gone.

“We’re replacing them with chairs,” said Sachen. “That will give us more flexibility in presenting concerts and other cultural events in the sanctuary.”

Bethany also hopes to welcome back community groups that used to meet in the church hall. In addition, the church is negotiating with Sonoma’s Moldovan Academy, which has plans to open a preschool on the site.

The reopening of the church, while a homecoming for many of the parishioners, will not be one for Sachen. That’s because she became Bethany’s pastor just a year and a half ago, after the relocation to 580 Capp St. Thus, the first service will also mark her first time in the pulpit at Clipper and Sanchez.

Sachen is understandably excited about the church’s rebirth. “Even as we celebrate the past, we have an opportunity to redefine the future,” she said. “What kind of church will we be in the 21st century?”

While Bethany’s mission may change over time, Sachen said there’s one thing that won’t: “This church will always be a place where everyone feels welcome.”


You can reach Pastor Sachen at 415-647-8393 or

Bethany’s new administration building on Sanchez Street (center) has a peaked roof and window features that echo the design of the sanctuary at the corner of Sanchez and Clipper streets.    Photo by Sally Smith