An Elegant Day at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Yesterday I returned to the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples for the very special occasion of its being honored as an Historical Landmark by the City of San Francisco.  I was invited to offer a reflection for the occasion.

The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. Photo from SF Heritage, by permission.

This is the first Church in America dedicated explicitly to interracial and interfaith worship; it was inaugurated in 1944 by Drs. Howard Thurman and Alfred Fisk.  For the last 29 years it has been headed by Dr. Dorsey Blake who, I am proud to say, was vice president of our University of Creation Spirituality for the nine years of its existence.  His very able Co-Minister for some 20 years has been Dr. Kathryn Lloyd Benton, a graduate of UCS.

Present for this occasion were Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and M. Piar LaValley, Senior Preservation Planner for the City, both of whom effected the designation and shared moving stories of the events that led to this special day.

The musicians were amazing–Ghanaian Drummer Pope Flyne; Pianist Dr. Carl Blake; and William Underwood III on the flute.  The three of them brought Spirit into the space like wind for a sail.

I share some of my talk here. 

Today is a great day, an elegant day, a day that the City of San Francisco to its credit has had the intuition and imagination to declare this place an Historic Landmark. 

Event flyer for the honoring of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples as an historic landmark.

What is in that term, “historic landmark”?  History is the stories we remember, and the City of SF is saying: “Look here.  Look at the Story of this place.  And remember it.  Remember the greatness of the vision that was named and birthed here and the greatness of the peoples whose own stories and lives were imbued with grace by being here.  Remember our ancestors, therefore.  Their vision and courage, their hunger and imagining and working for a new and better future.”

Webster defines a Landmark as “an event or development that marks a turning point or a stage.  A structure, as a building, of unusual historical interest…especially one that is officially designated and set aside for preservation.”

Land.  Mark.  Mark this land. Mark this place. Officially. Why?  So we remember it.  So we remember what happened and is happening and can happen beyond here.  What is that? 

It is in the name: A Fellowship of All Peoples.  As Howard Thurman wrote, adapting and updating St. Paul: 

It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile nor Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Muslim, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substance of itself before God.  

To be continued

See Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 214.

Banner Image: Detail of the sign outside the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. Photo from SF Heritage, by permission.

Queries for Contemplation

What is your understanding of “landmark” and why is it useful or important to see Howard Thurman’s vision put to use today?

Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

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5 thoughts on “An Elegant Day at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for today’s meditation and especially for sharing the experience of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. The hearts of many among us are heavy in the face of the terrible and terrifying developments in Israel and Gaza, the danger of it escalating within the wider Middle East, the war in Ukraine, the violent oppression in Myanmar and also the defeat of the Referendum to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament here in Australia (this litany could be multiplied many times), I am heartened and very moved at what the Church for the Fellowship of All People is living and witnessing to the world. May its vision and mission prosper among all peoples.

  2. Avatar

    Inward, upward and onward! Three cheers to the founders and stalwarts of the Church For The Fellowship of All Peoples!, and for Matthew’s perseverance in his continued ground breaking work.

  3. Avatar

    I am happy to say that my two now-adult children got their Bachelor’s Degrees at Chapman University (where I got my M.A.) and that they were Disciples on Campus students centered at the Fish Interfaith Center. Like the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, it’s a soothing chapel where people of all faiths can worship and Christian students can open their hearts to faith paths different from their own. May we work to see more chapels and churches like these flourish. Here’s a two-minute visual of it:

  4. Avatar

    The tragic pride that claims sole and total understanding of the multifaceted gem that is Creator has brought us nearly to ruin. Blessed are the peacemakers—those who peacefully and gracefully accept that people see the gem from different aspects, each of the same Whole, each a part of All.

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