Good Shepherd, currently in its 141st year, is a small congregation in West Berkeley. What began as a church for the community of Oceanview, then quite separate from Berkeley’s other nucleus around the University, has changed many times. Most recently, it changed from a predominantly African-American congregation in the 1940s and ’50s to a majority Anglo congregation in the ’70s. It has long been committed to serving the local community and the larger world—from accommodating an early Black Panthers’ breakfast program for school children to creating a prototype of the Head Start Program to having an outsize influence on the full inclusion of GLBTQ people in the Episcopal Church to feeding jornaleros and the hungry and isolated people of the neighborhood.
Throughout all this, worship has been central at Good Shepherd. We have a tradition that leans toward the catholic side of Anglicanism, though it has been expressed in a variety of ways, from the solemn high masses of the ’90s to the more modest sung service of today. We have, with episcopal permission, revised the language of the service to make it more inclusive. We also have a strong commitment to music, largely of a traditional Anglican vein, but including other elements. There is a small but able choir that sings for festivals and, when possible, for regular Sunday services.
For the past several decades we have enjoyed an abundance of preachers, including, in addition to the vicar, several ordained or otherwise theologically-educated congregants. On occasion, we also invite preachers from other traditions altogether, supported by our Diversity in Preaching Fund. This multi-voiced tradition is something our members often cite as one of the things they like best about the congregation. Preaching at Good Shepherd is typically anchored in the lectionary.
The congregation is a mix of residents in the immediate area and people coming from further away in the East Bay. It has long made a point of practicing hospitality to marginalized people, including jornaleros, homeless persons, and persons with physical or psychological challenges. Its buildings are wheel-chair accessible. It is probably fair to say that there is no “standard issue” sheep in the Good Shepherd fold.
The church is a gem of Victorian carpenter Gothic architecture with an aura of holiness about it that many have remarked on; and it is listed as a historical building. It suffered a serious fire some years ago, but has been beautifully restored. Our parish hall serves as meeting space not only for the congregation but for various musical groups, twelve-step programs and others. The area around the church is an ethnically-mixed, energetic, creative, urban neighborhood that is in rapid change because of the successive impacts of day-laborers immigrating from Central America, the California housing crisis, and a recent major increase in apartment construction.
The present program of Sunday worship includes a Eucharist at 11 a.m. and a meditative
evening service twice a month at 5 p.m. There is also a Wednesday Eucharist and healing service at noon, and communion is taken monthly to the nearby Strawberry Creek Lodge, where two members of the congregation live. We continue working toward finding new members and contributors both because there are great riches at Good Shepherd to be shared with others .