History of our church
In 1910, the Black Episcopalians in the Bay Area did not have a church of their own. The Rev. E. F. Gee, Rector of St. John’s Episcopal, Oakland (then located at 8th & MLK Pkwy) worked with his Black members and other Black Episcopalians from a round the area to begin a mission specifically for Black Episcopalians.
The Rt. Rev. William Ford Nichols, Bishop, preached at a gathering of Black Episcopalians, coming from all around the Bay Area. Afterwards,
St. Augustine’s was formally established as a mission of the St. John’s Parish on Sunday, July 31, 1910. The new congregation chose the name
St. Augustine’s after the Fourth Century African Bishop, Augustine of Hippo. Augustine’s mother, Monnica is featured prominently throughout his writings, known for weeping for her son during his wayward years. A group of church women formed a prayer-based organization called
St. Monnica’s Guild.
The congregation called Rev. David R. Wallace from Chicago as Vicar after almost a year of 6pm Sunday services in the St. John’s building. On August 4, 1911, he met with St. Monnica’s Guild and on August 6, he celebrated Holy Communion for the first time. Rev. Wallace quickly started a Sunday school program and a men’s club. At this time, St. John’s was still assisting in meeting the vicar’s salary and expenses.
St. Augustine’s continued to grow under the faithful leadership of Rev. David R. Wallace. The congregation purchased a cottage at the corner
of 27th & West. The men’s club remodeled the cottage and service began May 4, 1913 in their very own building! The church continued growing and raising funds. Bishop Nichols laid the cornerstone and services began in the new building at 27th & West on November 14, 1920. Rev. David R. Wallace served for thirty-five years, retiring as Rector of St. Augustine’s Parish in 1946.
Rev. Earl Neill, a social justice minded priest, emphasized the need for St. Augustine’s to join the protests for racial justice. He got to know members of the newly formed Black Panther Party. In January of 1969, St. Augustine’s became the first site for the Black Panther Party free breakfast program. Rev. Neill also spoke at the (UFAF Conference, 1970). Rev. Neill’s emphasis on Justice had an impact on the community,
but wasn’t universally applauded amongst the congregation.
Conversations began with Trinity Episcopal at 29th & Telegraph in the early 1970’s. St. Augustine’s was a vibrant, growing, active congregation
in an old building. Trinity had a large, beautiful building with an aging congregation moving further from the church building’s neighborhood.
In 1975 the two congregations formally merged. They adopted the building at 29th & Telegraph and used the St. Augustine’s name. Merging
a white congregation and a black congregation is complicated today and was complicated in 1975. According to Ms. Moira Nicholls
(Dec 20, 1921-Jan 1, 2020), only two families from Trinity left the newly formed church!