In the early 1870s, a group of Black Episcopalians gathered together with the assistance of Rev. Fr. Peter William Cassey to form a new church. This group became known as Christ Mission, and services were held in Youngmen’s Hall on Pacific Street in the City.
Thirty years after the closure of Christ Mission, the remaining church members and their families renewed their quest for a church to meet their needs. With the assistance and guidance of Rev. Fr. David Wallace, and the sponsorship of Oakland’s St. Augustine’s Church, the families started a San Francisco Guild.
With the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, laborers from the project began moving to San Francisco. Many of these migrants were Anglicans of West Indian origin, and they soon met African American Episcopalians who had also migrated to the City by the Bay. The two groups joined forces to work toward a common goal: their own Episcopal church in San Francisco. During the celebration of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, members of the fledgling congregation held church services on Sunday afternoons at St. Paul’s Church, and later transferred their worship to the Chapel of Grace at Grace Cathedral in 1922.
A committee was formed to discuss plans for creating a Black Episcopal church in the Diocese of California, and the group received the approval of the Rt. Rev. Edward Lamb Parsons, Bishop of California. A vestry was elected, and the new church was named “St. Cyprian’s.”
The first formal service as St. Cyprian’s Church was held in the Grace Chapel on April 8, 1923. The parish formed St. Cyprian’s Guild and began raising funds for a church building. The congregation was forced to move several times during this period: first to St. Stephen’s on May 23, 1923, then to the Church of the Advent in 1926. At this time, St. Cyprian’s became a mission with the Church of the Advent. The Church of the Advent was staffed by the Society of St. John the Evangelist (Cowley Fathers), a monastic order headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. St. Cyprian’s was under the charge of the Cowley Fathers until 1934, when the Rev. Fr. Robert Humphrey, SSJE, became full-time vicar of St. Cyprian’s Mission.
Fr. Humphrey and members of the church wanted to secure a permanent location for St. Cyprian’s, and purchased a building on the corner of Sutter and Lyon Streets. The first service at this new location was conducted on December 22, 1935, by Bishop Parsons. However, regular worship did not take place in the building until Christmas Eve 1937, as the building needed further construction and repair. St. Cyprian’s had several priests lead the congregation from 1938 until 1947, when the Rev. Elmer McLaughlin became vicar. In February of 1953, St. Cyprian’s was given parish status in the diocese. Bishop Karl Morgan Block decided that St. Cyprian’s church building should be replaced rather than repaired, and a new church building was constructed on the corner of Turk and Lyon Streets, where it stands today. The first service was held in the new church on December 18, 1960. Rev. McLaughlin worked hard for the growth of the church until his retirement in 1966.
Since St. Cyprian’s arrival at Turk and Lyon, the community and neighborhood have experienced enormous change. With passion, commitment, and courage, the St. Cyprian’s community reached out by starting a job training program for youth in the late 1960s, theater productions in the 1980s, and a needle exchange program in the 1990s. Numerous clergy and lay leaders helped in these efforts.
The congregation is now gathering an expanded history of St. Cyprian’s. One inspiring occasion in our more recent history was the visit of the Anglican Communion’s first woman bishop, the Right Reverend Barbara Harris, prior to her consecration in 1989. In the autumn of 2011, St. Cyprian’s began an Oral History Project to gather the stories of congregation members, friends and neighbors to broaden our understanding and appreciation of this unique church.
Today, with over 90 years of service and worship in San Francisco, St. Cyprian’s is a thriving community space & growing multicultural congregation. We invite you to join us on the adventure of being a people of faith, action, and community — creating together a place where everyone matters.
Throughout St. Cyprian’s history, many lay and ordained people have worked hard, many times against the odds, often with limited resources, to give human expression to divine love. Below is a list of clergy who have served as Vicar, Rector, Priest-in-Charge, or as Interim at St. Cyprian’s, it is incomplete and ministry is the work of all the people of God working, praying, and discerning together. Thank you to Dr. Diane Hambrick LeBlanc for providing this list, the photos are those we have available, please be in touch if you have access to additional pictures.
Clergy who have served as Vicar, Priest-in-Charge, Interim or Rector of St. Cyprian’s
1934-1938 The Rev. Robert F. Humphrey
1939-1941 The Rev. Thaddeus P. Martin
1941-1945 The Rev. A. Morgan Tabb
1945-1946 The Rev. Lewis A. Baskerville
1947-1966 The Rev. Elmer A. McLaughlin
1966-1969 The Rev. Edwin Earl Smith
1969-1970 The Rev. Edward Jos. Berey
1970-1974 The Rev. Richard Gibbs Younge
1975 The Rev. Cn. Fordyce E. Eastburn
1975 The Rev. Willard Streeter
1975 The Rev. Thomas Chesterman
1975-1976 The Rev. Hanlan Beemis
1976-1978 The Rev. John W. Steinfeld
1978-1988 The Rev. Allan Ford
1988-1989 The Rev. William Guthrie
1989-1990 The Rev. Henry Bayne
1990-1996 The Rev. Joan Ford
1996-1999 The Rev. Judith Dunlap
1999-2002 The Rev. Rod Thompson
2002-2009 The Rev. Don Fisher
2009-Present The Rev. Will Scott