Parish History

St. John’s Parish was first established in 1856 on land donated by Petaluma pioneer George P. McNear, and located at the corner of 5th and C streets.  Our first home was a small wooden church that was destroyed by fire.  The cornerstone was laid for the current church in 1890.  Designed by Ernest A. Coxhead, it was dedicated six months later on April 5, 1891.

Download a PDF of A Short History of St. John's Episcopal Church, Petaluma, CA by Father Harry Allagree.

Read the Petaluma Argus-Courier Article about St. John's 160th Anniversary.

RECENT HISTORY  The renewal of St. John’s, Petaluma began in the first days of 2007, when a small group vowed not to let the Episcopal Church die out in a town where it had been established. The parish had been in deepening conflict with the wider Episcopal Church over the course of several years, a rift that became a chasm with the denomination’s approval of full inclusion of LGBT persons in its life and leadership. In a vote just before Christmas, 2006, the leaders and many members of the congregation decided to break away and form a new church on the premises of St. John’s Episcopal that would maintain the practice of excluding LGBT persons. Resolutely determined to continue St. John’s, about a dozen members opposed to the schism gathered in a private living room the following Sunday morning. A retired Navy Chaplain and former Interim Priest-in-Charge of St. John’s, the Rev. Norman Cram, volunteered his services as pastor of the congregation, and the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California extended his support. The congregation soon outgrew the living room, holding the first public service of the continuing St. John’s Episcopal Church at sunrise on Easter Day, 2007. The following week, St. John’s began meeting for worship on Saturday evening at Elim Lutheran Church.

Meanwhile, with the support of the Diocese of Northern California, the parish leaders decided to initiate legal action to recover the property alienated from the church by the breakaway congregation. The case never went to trial, but was settled out of court in the early summer of 2009 when the Supreme Court of California ruled

in favor of the Episcopal Church in a similar case involving two breakaway parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles. In July, 2009 St. John’s Episcopal Church returned to its historic home at the corner of 5th and C Streets in Petaluma. The people of the congregation, which by now included numerous new members, immediately set to work on long-delayed capital improvements and deferred maintenance to the physical plant, on rebuilding the parish organization, and redeveloping the programs of a vital Episcopal parish. These latter included the creation of two Sunday morning services with unique musical and liturgical flavors, a Godly Play Sunday School, First Friday Taizé services and Labyrinth Walks and in collaboration with other faith communities in Petaluma, the Westside Interfaith Food Pantry.

This process of congregational renewal took a further step forward a year later, again with support from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, when the Rev. Daniel Green arrived as the full-time Priest-in-Charge. In the past four years a culture of spiritual growth and discernment, with the collaborative development of lay and ordained leadership, have seen the parish gather strength in numbers, participation, and the quality and variety of its activities and programs. Successful fundraising events have enabled us to refurbish and make accessibility improvements to our beautiful and spacious parish hall, rededicated as Norman Cram Hall in November 2012, to be an asset to the whole community.  

The congregation made the final transition from dependence on Diocesan support to full economic self-sufficiency at the end of 2014. 

On February 13, 2015, after a year of discernment, St. John's celebrated the Renewal of Ministry and Institution of Rev. Daniel C. Green as Rector.