Doing some research for a sermon, I stumbled upon this SF Chronicle article written about MBCC the year we opened. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same.
SoMa Church Plugs In to the Wired
Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2001
Mission Bay Community Church bills itself as "a different kind of
Its young pastor, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, hopes his church lasts longer
than all the other startups shutting down in this South of Market neighborhood.
"At least five companies in this building closed their doors in the past
couple months," he says.
From the outside, Mission Bay doesn’t look like a church. It’s at 300
Brannan St., on the third floor of a dot-com office building, right around the
corner from South Park, up the street from Pacific Bell Park.
It opens for business today with an 11 a.m. Easter Sunday service.
You may have heard Mission Bay‘s radio ads this month on ALICE, 97.3 FM
radio station, between tunes by the Wallflowers and the Bare Naked Ladies.
"When the ups and downs of city life get you down, there’s a great place
you can go to re-energize, meet new people and finally gain a sense of peace
in the chaos."
Back in the days of old-time religion, churches were born out of great
disputes over the authority of Scripture or theological debates about the
mysteries of the Holy Trinity.
Today, demographics are divine. It’s about marketing as much as ministry.
These days, the big debates are over which radio station can best reach your
Mission Bay was set up with a specific slice of the population in mind –
something Reyes-Chow calls the "Generation X, dot-com, new S.F. 25-35 culture."
"Whether you’re single or a young married couple, San Francisco is a hard
place to meet people," he says.
"Amen," says Pamela Nicholas, who moved to San Francisco three years ago
and spent a lot of time "shopping around for a church."
"In some San Francisco churches, I’d be the only person my age," she says.
Nicholas is single, 31, and lives in the Richmond District. Her new home is
a long way from Flushing, Mich., the place where she was born and raised, then
left behind. She headed West with fond memories of the good folks at Flushing
Living in San Francisco and working as a computer engineer for a financial
services company, Nicholas did not get a lot of tips on where to worship. "I
don’t run into a lot of people at work who are Christian or who attend church,
" she says.
"This is the kind of community I was searching for and couldn’t find," she
Pamela Nicholas is smack dab in the middle of Mission Bay‘s desired
"Our target population are young, middle of the road, progressive single
people," says Reyes-Chow, "or young families going through middle-class angst
about what to do with the children."
Reyes-Chow, 31, knows that angst. He and his wife have one small child and
another on the way.
"People here are looking for community. They’re looking for something
between a fundamentalist church and a Unitarian place," he says. "They want a
place that is grounded – that knows what it is – but isn’t right-wing or left-
Reyes-Chow and his patrons hope that middle-of-the-road place will be this
latest congregation of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
You won’t see "Presbyterian" in their ad in the Yellow Pages, but Mission
Bay Community Church is brought to you by that mainline Protestant
They were inspired, in part, by the success of Cornerstone, a
nondenominational Gen X congregation in San Francisco’s Mission District. Its
slogan, "a different kind of church," sounds a lot like Mission Bay‘s
"different kind of startup."
While Mission Bay and Cornerstone are going after the same demographic
group, Cornerstone takes a more literal, fundamentalist approach to the Bible.
"They give answers," Reyes-Chow says.
When it comes to religion, many Gen-Xers have nothing to rebel against – or
"Baby Boomers have a church to go back to. Most of them spent a lot of time
growing up in church," Reyes-Chow says. "Many Gen Xers don’t have that. We
find more and more folks here who never went to church."