Capital Campaign Kicks Off

Our faith. Our future. Our time.

On Sunday, May 14th we joyfully kicked off the public phase of a new capital campaign to raise funds for much-needed improvements to our buildings, energy conservation, and landscaping. The vision behind these improvements, in a nutshell, is to no longer be one of Marin’s best-kept secrets. We want our light to shine in a world where people seek refuge, for mooring, for grounding in something hopeful and something bigger than themselves. We want to welcome people more warmly, hospitably, and safely whether they come to worship or to one of the many other ministries we offer here because we have been blessed with these buildings.

More details can be found here. Look for packets in your mailbox this week, or pick up extra materials in the narthex in the coming Sundays.

During the initial phase of our 2017-2020 campaign, we encourage you to make an outright financial gift, or a pledge that can be paid off over a three-year period. Our Facilities Planning Team led by Dave Jones has worked tirelessly to assess our facilities for safety, accessibility, comfort, environmental concerns and other criteria. They’ve come up with a host of plans, including replacement of the education wing and preschool roof, modernization of bathrooms, installation of double-paned windows and more solar panels, and better access for people with disabilities, to name a few. Our Capital Campaign Leadership Team has also been busy – developing campaign materials and a video, plus reaching out to our church officers and other members for leadership gifts.

Questions? Ideas? Contact any member of the campaign leadership team – Dave Jones and Margaret Melsh, co-chairs, Laurie Buntain, Erica Heath, Ernie Hubbard, Martha Olsen Joyce, Marita Mayer and Joanne Whitt.


Lent 2017 Carbon Fast

Consider participating in our Lenten Carbon Fast

For Christians, Lent is the time to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation and preparing for his ministry of proclaiming God’s reign.  And so during Lent, we, too, reflect on God’s purpose for our lives.  Fasts or “giving something up” have long been practiced during Lent.  Lenten fasts are intended to help people examine whether their lives reflect the love of God revealed in Christ.  A “carbon fast” serves this same purpose, and at the same time, reduces our actions that damage God’s Creation.  During Lent, we’ll offer daily practices that help people take small steps for a more sustainable world, and by doing so, rediscover a different relationship with God, with Creation and with one another.

Click here if you missed a daily practice

We Support the Standing Rock Sioux

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a planned 1,172-mile oil pipeline, with an expected capacity of 500,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipeline would originate in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and terminate in Pakota, Illinois. Since April, 2016 a growing popular movement lead by indigenous people has formed at the site of pipeline construction. As of mid-September, thousands of native and non native protestors have demonstrated support at the Sacred Stone Camp, site of the protest camp, and an unprecedented 180 tribal nations have sent letters of solidarity. These camps are being monitored by the National Guard, and private security companies have attacked some protestors with dogs, among whom number women and children.

On Sunday, November 13, we commissioned church members Peter Anderson and Christina Van der Plas who traveled to Sacred Stone Camp and delivered support and affirmation.  They brought with them a 12 foot diameter tepee made by Nomadics Tipi Makers in Bend, Oregon in authentic Sioux fashion, designed to manage bitter cold, snow and wind. Peter and Christina will share it with others while there, then it will be given to the tribe. (If you would like to share in its cost, you may still do so by writing a check to FPCSA with “Standing Rock” notation in the memo line and mailing to the church office at 72 Kensington Rd, San Anselmo, CA 94960.)

To learn more about our stake as Presbyterians in this issue and an Action Guide, please visit The Office of Public Witness blog of the Presbyterian Church USA. Additional links may be found here and here.

Photo credit: Thane Maxwell

Rock for the Homeless YOUTH!

The Ambassadors for Hope and Opportunity (AHO) Youth Team is putting on a fundraiser, “Rock for the Homeless YOUTH!”, On Saturday, October 1st, at the Hopmonk Tavern in Novato.  All proceeds will go for much needed support programs and supplies for homeless youth in Marin County, ages 18-25.  This is a FUNraiser for ALL ages with music by The Happys and two other bands, all donating their time, plus raffles, youth stories and more — all for a $10 cover charge: doors open at 6:00, show starts at 7:00.

Finding the common heart in democracy

If you are a neighbor of this church, you may have found a leaflet near your door or mailbox. It’s called an “Invitation to Wordless Prayer.” It simply says:

With fewer than 100 days to go before the presidential election, it often feels as though we’ve heard enough words. And yet, regardless of our political affiliation, we all long for the same thing: We long for what’s best for our nation and its people.

We invite you to offer your own silent hope for our country. Simply tie the attached strip of fabric to the prayer net at the corner of Ross Avenue and Kensington Road. If ‘prayer’ is not a word you use, then please offer your intention, gratitude, and/or hope.

It’s no small thing to canvas the neighborhood with fliers and strips of fabric. Yet we feel this is one small gesture we can make in modeling the respect and caring that lies at the heart of our imperfect democracy. Surrounded by the hyperbole of the pre-election season, it’s easy to focus on what makes us different. As a neighborhood church, we want to be a part of what makes us the same.

So as you drive or walk by the corner of Ross Avenue and Kensington Road during the next 100 days, glance over at the prayer net. Know that each streamer represents someone’s deepest hopes for this country. Taken as a whole, we hope it becomes a powerful metaphor for what creates and sustains community.

The pre-election prayer net at Kensington Road and Ross Avenue. Tying a streamer to the net is one way of expressing our highest hopes and dreams for our country.

Jo Gross Shares Stories

A note from Jo Gross…
Since writing and sharing the first edition of Sunrise, I’ve been encouraged to publish and make the book available to a larger audience. With slight revision from the original text, these early childhood stories offer a glimpse of the rural landscape and life on a family farm during the last years of the Great Depression. My hope is for school children to learn history from my stories and older people to  find joy in remembering, either as a child or a grandchild, the long ago times of one-room school houses, small towns, scarcity of conveniences, lack of communication, reliance on neighbors,  country social gatherings, national pride, disputes and gratification of living off the land.

Sunrise, my book, is now available on

Social Justice and Good Music: It’s Who We Are

Social justice and good music. Those are the two pursuits, the two ministries that folks keep mentioning in connection with First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo. In a number of discussions lately, both more and less formal, if you ask people to answer a question something along the lines of, “What is it that we do well, that most people identify with us, and that we should keep on doing?” they will say, “Social justice and good music.”

That doesn’t mean that’s all we do, or that’s all we are. We have an exciting ministry to children, youth and families (much of it revolves around social justice) and we care deeply for each other, both in times of need and in the ordinary process of building community. We worship together, we play together, we work together. But we’re best known for social justice and good music.

This congregation has a long history of social justice activism. In 1965, our pastor boarded a bus with students and faculty from the seminary next door, and went to Selma to march with Dr. King. We continue this commitment to justice through our ministries to the homeless of Marin County, rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, fighting hunger globally and locally, a commitment to the environment, welcoming our LGBT brothers and sisters and insisting that “Black Lives Matter.”

A couple of years ago, Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” ( formed the centerpiece of our leadership retreat. Sinek explains that people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it, and that is why we “start with the ‘why.’” When asked to define the “why” of our congregation – why do we exist? – what is our purpose? – our leaders came up with this: “We believe that we are all children of God. We express that belief by sharing God’s love for creation through worship, service and community. We believe God calls us to do justice in the world and to offer the peace and joy of God’s love to all.”

This social justice “why” is rooted in our reading of Scripture. Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that God loves all of God’s creation, and in response, wants us to love each other. Shortly after beginning his ministry, Jesus announced his mission statement by quoting the prophet Isaiah:

16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

(Luke 4:16-19)  And so we agree with Cornel West, who said, “justice is what love looks like in public.”

Our love of great music has a long tradition as well. Music speaks to us in ways words cannot, and is an important way we connect to the holy. Our sanctuary houses two of the best pipe organs on the West Coast and we’re proud of the legacy of excellent musicians who have served and continue to serve as music directors, organists, soloists, and choir members. While we have a definite bent toward the classical, we also love gospel. A couple of times a year we enjoy a New Orleans jazz band; every World Communion Sunday we welcome West African drums; we remember our Scottish heritage on Reformation Sunday with the Highland bagpipes and snare. Our congregation is blessed with fine musicians (flute, clarinet, violin, guitar, keyboard) who offer their talents even on ordinary Sundays.

“Social justice and good music” doesn’t sum up all of who we are. But it’s a pretty good start.



Tam House seeks part-time house manager

Unique in the world of affordable senior housing, and located in San Anselmo, Tam House provides communal living for 21 independent seniors in two homes. We are searching for a part time house manager. The position reports to the Board of RVEHA. Responsibilities include overseeing daily operations, one employee (cook/handyman) and rent collection as well as facilitating the harmony of the homes as necessary, and keeping them fully occupied by interacting with local agencies and an in-place referral network.

Experience with elder and low income populations preferred as well as an easy-going individual with a good sense of humor. The ideal candidate will be a problem solver, innovative, self-motivating, with good time-management skills and clear ability to use a computer and update a website. Informational meeting for all interested to be held on Saturday, April 16 at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 14 Lagunitas Road in Ross, 94957 at 10:30am. Please bring resumes and contact information. Salary, health insurance, paid vacation. Questions can be emailed to  No calls please until after the informational meeting.

“Race: the Power of an Illusion”

A New Sunday Seminar Series
April 10, 17, 24 and May 1

Last year, we explored systemic racism and white privilege through a provocative video series.  This spring, we offer a second video series as we continue delving into the issues behind persistent racism.  “Race: The Power of an Illusion” is a powerful PBS documentary that explores the extent to which racism cannot be healed until we are healed of our belief in the myth of race.

April 10:         Episode 1: “The Difference Between Us”
Everyone can tell a Norwegian from a Nubian, so why doesn’t it make sense to sort people into biological races?  Examine the contemporary science – including genetics –  that challenges our assumptions about human groups.

April 17:         Episode 2: “The Story We Tell”
Hasn’t race always been with us?  Explore the roots of the race concept, including the 19th century science that justified it and how it gained such a hold over our minds.

April 24:         Episode 3: “The House We Live In”
Race may be a biological myth, but racism gives different groups vastly different chances.  Fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, the playing field is still not level and “colorblind” policies only perpetuate inequality.

May 1:            Discussion
What do we make of all this?  And now, what do we do?


FPCSA Choir Hits New York!

Having all returned safely from New York, we are basking in the memories we gained from singing at Carnegie Hall. And we are most grateful for our wonderful and generous congregation, without whose support we would not have been able to participate! We represented our part of the world very well – it was an amazing adventure!

We arrived in the Big Apple in relatively balmy weather and immediately began checking out the various restaurants, sites, and shops. Many of us stayed in midtown hotels, so we were within walking distance of Central Park. Being on West Coast time is a decided advantage in The City That Never Sleeps! Some of us went to the opera, some to a Broadway show, some to the New York Philharmonic, and some to a jazz club in the Village. Rehearsals were in Park Central Hotel for one long morning and one long afternoon. Composer Sir Karl Jenkins stopped by and there were autographs and photo ops. The rest of the time we were free to explore the city.

A reflective moment at the 911 Memorial

A reflective moment at the 911 Memorial

Many of us visited the 911 Memorial. It is very moving to look into the huge square holes in the fountains that sit where the World Trade Center towers once stood. A sacred place, where so many lives were lost. How fitting that we had come to NYC to sing of peace. And indeed, as many of you know who heard our May 9th performance of The Armed Man, the music is moving and the film heart-rending. I personally could not get the refrain out of mind as I gazed at the names on the memorial stone: “God shall wipe away all tears….”

A light dusting of snow covers Central Park

A light dusting of snow covers Central Park

Sunday morning, several worship services were attended: high church complete with incense at St. Thomas Episcopal with a heavenly Men’s and Boys’ choir, a rousing gospel choir at First Presbyterian, and the full Catholic experience at St. Patrick’s. All are on 5th Avenue.

On the eve of the concert, as it got colder outside and began to snow, 24 of us gathered at Marseille Restaurant on 9th & 44th for a lively group dinner. The French-Mediterranean fare was delicious, the company delightful! Many of us walked back to the hotel through always-brightly-lit Times Square. The next morning, Central Park was beautifully dusted with fresh snow.

Composer Sir Karl Jenkins and Conductor Jonathan Griffiths

Composer Sir Karl Jenkins and Conductor Jonathan Griffiths

On performance day, we had a “short” rehearsal with the orchestra, and the production crew showed us how to get on and off the stage. As there were almost 300 singers, this took a while. Small groups of singers were bustled into separate rooms, some of which were 4 or 5 stories higher than the stage level. Our queues snaked down the stairs and gradually we were able to get into place. Whatever organization of voice section had been no longer applied, yet we managed to all fit onto the stage. The full symphonic orchestra was fantastic! What an incredibly special experience to sing on this hallowed stage.

Gala Dinner. Dave Jones, Marita Mayer, with Linda Adams from FPCSR

Gala Dinner. Dave Jones, Marita Mayer, with Linda Adams from FPCSR

Aprés le concert, we attended a gala buffet banquet at Rosie O’Grady’s on 7th Ave. There was plenty of scrumptious food and an open bar. The Swiss and German groups serenaded us with a couple of traditional songs, but we all joined in on the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann and Dona Nobis Pacem.

We are very proud to have been the only American choir to sing in The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (the first part of the program included other American choirs doing other Jenkins’ compositions), and we are already talking of doing something similar again!