About Saint Paulus

Beliefs of Saint Paulus Lutheran Church

Fundamental invitation: What in the world is God up to? Declarations:

  • God acts in the world delivering blessings and extending his gifts of freedom, healing, reconciliation, justice and love to the world. Broken and distorted as it is, the world is God’s workplace. The cross and resurrection confirm the gracious presence of God in Jesus in this world, declaring both radical criticism of oppressive culture and the present promise of new life in faith.
  • It is by faith that this present promise is recognized and celebrated; faith is shaped and enlivened by Bible content, prayer, worship, service and community.
  • In  life, death and the resurrection of Jesus, the full measure of God’s actions in the world are revealed to faith.
  • The fullness and passion of life is celebrated by joining in on what God is doing in the world.

Reconciling in Christ Congregation

Saint Paulus Lutheran Church is “an inclusive community of God’s diverse people visible in the world”*… as such we celebrate the sexual diversity of God’s world welcoming and embracing our brothers and sisters – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer – in communion in all its forms – worship, baptism, marriage and leadership. The richness of God’s creation is reflected in the life and ministry of this congregation.

“There is no longer Jews or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are on in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Hallelujah! Amen!

*from Saint Paulus’ Mission Statement

Achieving the Unachievable

Over the past 153-year congregational history (since our founding on 15th May 1867), Saint Paulus church has achieved the following:

  • The first Lutheran church – Missouri Synod congregation in California and one of the oldest churches in San Francisco, founded in 1867 by Pastor Jacob M Buehler.
  • In the early 1890s because of the growth in membership, Saint Paulus built a cathedral like building drawing from European designs at the corner of Gough and Eddy St. in San Francisco (999 Eddy Street) that quickly became an architectural treasure gracing the skyline of the city.
  • Saint Paulus started the first parochial school west of the Rockies and helped establish dozens of churches (still thriving today), within the first 40 years of our existence.
  • As the ‘mother church’ for dozens of new start Lutheran congregations in the city and Northern California since the late 1800’s, we have partnered with community organizing groups like PICO; and with other nonprofits like SF Night Ministry, SF Interfaith Council and Sojourn’s Chaplaincy at SF General Hospital; and with churches like Santa Maria y Santa Marta Lutheran Church and St. Francis to coordinate services for the homeless.
  • We maintained the same spirit shown in the care of those displaced and victimized by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire – and one of three significant structures that survived the 1906 disaster. Notably the building was saved by the only working fire hydrant adjacent to the church.
  • This miracle hydrant savior resulted in the church used as a hospital and shelter for the 1906 catastrophe victims, caring for over 10,000, according to the records of the First National Guard Emergency Hospital.
  • Crowning our success was the addition, in the late 1940s through to the 50s, with the construction of two educational facilities along Gough St and on Turk, both of which now house the Chinese American international School.
  • The turmoil experienced in San Francisco, beginning in late 1950s with the urban redevelopment movement particularly in the Western Addition of the city, gave way for the growing tensions between cultures, the rise in civil rights assertion, the increasing skepticism of institutional policy and the first evidences of homelessness all played out in the life and ministry of Saint Paulus. The congregation used its facilities as a community meeting center, its kitchen for community activities, its school for stability; it reached out to apartment dwellers, to motorcyclists, to the elderly, to Native Americans; and it became increasingly identified with the needy and marginalize in the community. It repurposed the school facility as a shelter for homeless women and subsequently for a city-sponsored shelter.
  • Following the example of those who resisted the “Negro Removal” (Urban Renewal) in the Fillmore in the 1960s, we have fought to cross the “digital divide” and stir up support for real care for the displaced on our streets.
  • In the same way in which Saint Paulus’ parochial school championed the integration in our educational ministry in the 1970s we have welcomed those who have been cast off, and marginalized, into our church fellowship and leadership.
  • In the latter decades of the twentieth century, a host of issues would take hold of our San Francisco community – the AIDS epidemic, discrimination due to sexual orientation, homelessness, drug use, mental illness inequality and racism. Saint Paulus did not shy away, but stepped up to provide programs like the Friendship Banquet for those with HIV/AIDS, shelter and food for the homeless, advocacy for LGBTQ, hosting the ordination of the first gay pastoral candidates in the Lutheran Church, and making available facilities for those suffering from mental illness.
  • Since 2007, the congregation has sustained ministries among the HIV/AIDS community, maintained a diverse congregation membership, sought out collaborative relationships through SFCARES, provided prescription eyeglasses for those who need them, and continued support advocacy on behalf of the growing population of mentally ill on our streets.
  • By 2023, Saint Paulus will relocate back to our beloved 999 Eddy Street location; a newly built church with a contemporary and aesthetically stunning appearance, very different than our original church that was burned down in a fire in 1995. With a 13,000 sq ft facility including a kitchen, showers, office space, a huge Sanctuary and dining area, we will continue to provide for our community and advocate for the homeless, as we have done for over one and a half centuries.

And we’ve only just begun…

Saint Paulus Lutheran Church Council

The Church Council of Saint Paulus is a deliberative body of 7-9 persons, chosen by a vote of the congregation gathered at an Annual Congregational Meeting, generally held in January of each year. It is the responsibility of the Council to provide organizational and material support for the ministry and mission of Saint Paulus. This is accomplished by both listening to the membership of the church and by being intentionally open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that in deliberation with each other, the Council (individually and collectively) can partner with God in his work of freeing, reconciling and blessing the world. Council members are elected to 2 year terms, with the option of continuing, as the Congregation (Spirit) expresses its will through the election process. The deliberative group organizes itself with prescribed positions: President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. The operations of the Council are divided among five teams: Executive, Finance, Property, Community Life and Music. The Council meets generally on the third Wednesday of each month to consider issues, policies, and directions. Any member in good standing may be elected. The Council, the Pastor of the congregation is a member ex-officio but has no vote, only voice. Council members for 2022 include:

  •   Jordan Ward, President
  •   Barbara Solberg, Vice President
  •   Peter Krey, Secretary
  •   Larry Dannenberg, Treasurer
  •   Doug Merritt
  •   Mark Jackson
  •   Horatio Bravo
  •   Pam Dannenberg
  •   Leela Kennedy


Membership in Saint Paulus is a living relationship, not a statistical status. In keeping with this understanding, Saint Paulus encourages those who come into the sphere to engage in the life of the congregation, to taste its fruits, and test its self-definition. And only thereafter, consider whether or not a formal relationship is worth it for them. For some, formal membership follows quickly, for others an extended review period is taken, and for others, the association remains unofficial. During this time, all elements of Saint Paulus’ life are one for participation, except casting votes in any official meeting of the organization;- worship and bible studies are encouraged; literature is made available; conversation with the pastor is welcomed. There is an unspoken invitation for those in the process of acquaintanceship to take on formal membership, and sometimes a direct invitation is offered. When a person desires to formalize a relationship with Saint Paulus as a member he/she makes the request, a conversation with the Pastor follows, and arrangements are made to receive that person into membership in a formal and public rite of membership during a Sunday morning worship service. Upon this public proclamation, that person is joined to the community of Saint Paulus as a member. The rights and privileges of membership include the ability to vote in all congregational meetings and to be able to hold an office in the church corporation. The expectation of membership include participation in worship, using the Mission Statement as the guide for congregational witness, involvement in some form in the congregational ministry, contribute as able to the financial support of the congregation, pray for each other, and be generous in love.