Over a Century of Worship, Support and Service
The life of “The Church in Piedmont,” as it was originally known, began as the twentieth century dawned. The drive to former church homes in Oakland had proved arduous, so several attempts to provide Sunday School for residents’ children were made between 1900 and 1905. Then in 1905 a permanent Sunday School program was organized under the leadership of Rev. Henry Mowbray, Assistant Minister of First Congregational Church, Oakland. Until the 1906 earthquake, the Sunday School met in the old Blair Mansion on Highland Avenue, then moved to the carriage house of the Mirriam home on Hillside Avenue. The Piedmont Sunday School Association was founded, raised the funds for, and in 1909 built, Mowbray Hall, a permanent home for the Piedmont Sunday School, which stood till late in the century on Vista Avenue across from Piedmont City Hall. Mowbray Hall received a lot of use and was soon in demand for adult services!
In Fall of 1909, Dr. John Stuchell was encouraged by the Presbytery of Oakland to investigate the possibility of establishing the first church on the hill. Dr. Stuchell began conducting worship services in Mowbray Hall, and in his Easter Sunday sermon in 1910 described his vision of what would become Piedmont Community Church: “The opportunity is given of building up a church that will be the pride of the community in future years; we have the chance of showing what a church conducted on the broad lines of basic Christianity can do: if we let it slip, if we allow our enthusiasm to be chilled by the old partisan cries, if we insist that the work must be Congregational or Episcopalian or Presbyterian to be acceptable to the Almighty and helpful to mankind . . . then we prove that we are not as far beyond the Middle Ages as we had fondly imagined. But we do not take this dismal view.” This vision of an “umbrella” like ecumenical community church, while revolutionary in its day, found a willing and energetic following in this new community of Piedmont. After that Easter service, 56 charter members formally established The Church in Piedmont, which in the spring of 1912 joined with the Piedmont Sunday School Association as one body. Soon after that Easter Sunday, the founding members of Piedmont Church wrote a Creed; the words clearly describing the ecumenical and inclusive nature of our congregation.
Within a short period of time, it became evident that the growth of the church would exceed the capacity of Mowbray Hall. In November, 1913 the present site of the church was donated by its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Alexander, early leaders of the church. Plans were drawn for the present building around a central courtyard, and ground was broken in 1916. The church buildings were designed by architect Albert Farr over 75 years ago as a Mission-style complex and they received some renovations in the early 1990’s. Further renovation, expansion, and earthquake retrofitting of the buildings was undertaken in 2006 following the Founding Our Future Capital Campaign. The historical sanctuary is an airy yet intimate space with open wood beamed ceilings, hand-carved doors, specially commissioned stained glass windows, and a handsome elevated choir loft featuring a magnificent pipe organ.
On January 6, 1918 dedication services were held and Piedmont Community Church as we know it was established. There were many slow years of growth, but then the East Bay population exploded following World War II and the present Christian Education wing was built and dedicated on September 25, 1949. Later building additions included our beautiful Youth Chapel in the early 1950’s and the Lindamood Music Wing in the early 90’s.
Piedmont Community Church has been served by 9 Senior Ministers in its 100 years:
- Dr. John E. Stuchell, Presbyterian, 1910-1916
- Rev. Charles D. Milliken, Congregational, 1916-1927
- Rev. Ernest F. W. Swann, Methodist, 1927-1934
- Rev. Richard E. Shields, Presbyterian, 1935-1939
- Dr. Holland F. Burr, Congregational, 1941-1959
- Dr. Paul W. Yinger, Congregational, 1960-1971
- Rev. Samuel J. Lindamood, Jr., Presbyterian, 1972-1994
- Dr. Jim Davis, Presbyterian, 1994-1999
- Rev. Dr. William H. McNabb, Presbyterian, 2001-2020
- Rev. Dr. Steve Schibsted, Presbyterian, 2022-Present
In addition, the church has been served by 6 different Interim Senior Ministers:
- Rev. Francis Van Horn, 1934-35
- Rev. James Muilenberg and Rev. Arthur Basham, 1939-1941
- Dr. Harold Eymann, 1959-1960
- Dr. Kenneth Johnson, 1971-1972
- Rev. David Sandberg, 1994-1995, & 1999-2001
- Rev. Dr. Steve Schibsted, 2021-2022
One hundred years of proud history have proved the wisdom of the vision of our founders. The strongest chapters of that history have been written when the early ecumenical vision has been reclaimed and renewed.
Today, with a broad spectrum of strong ministries in music, youth, children, fellowship, mission outreach and adult spiritual growth groups, we stand on the brink of yet another chapter as we are encouraged by the leadership of Steve Schibsted and embrace our communal mission: “Welcoming, Nurturing, Serving.”