Academic journal article The Hymn

Conference 2008: Berkeley or Bust!

Academic journal article The Hymn

Conference 2008: Berkeley or Bust!

Article excerpt

There are many places named Berkeley. But Berkeley, California, is the one assumed when no other is specified. Many other cities are known as home to a great university, but when Berkeley is named, the universal recognition is of The University of California, Berkeley, consistently ranked as the No. 1 public university in the nation. So when you say you are going to attend the 2008 conference of The Hymn Society in Berkeley, everybody will know where you are going. And they will probably want to come with you.

Berkeley is situated along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, directly opposite the Golden Gate Bridge and the City of San Francisco. The effect of cool air from the Pacific Ocean is quite noticeable, the "natural air conditioning" that keeps sunny summer days from getting very hot, and which may bring night and morning fog, causing evenings and early mornings to be chilly. Summer's average high temperature is 70 degrees F. (21 degrees C.) and the average low is 54 degrees F. (12 degrees C.). Rain is rare and not expected between May and October.


Berkeley's founders rejected the name Peralta as the name for their town. Rather than honor the family of the Mexican land grantee whose vast holdings had extended some thirteen miles along the Bay both north and south and inland to the hills, Frederick Billings, a trustee of the College of California, chose the name of a person who had never been near the area and had already been dead over 100 years. Bishop George Berkeley was a philosopher and the Archbishop of Cloyne, Ireland. It was the line, "Westward the course of empire takes its way," from Berkeley's Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America," that so appealed to nineteenth-century Americans convinced of the righteous inevitability of Manifest Destiny. Samuel Hopkins Willey and Henry Durant, Congregationalist ministers from New England, had founded the College of California, chartered in Oakland in 1855, and persuaded their board of trustees to buy the farmland where they would lay out the town of Berkeley as the future site for their college. Their model was the private New England college. (Durant was Yale, Class of 1827; Willey, Dartmouth, Class of 1848.) They later disincorporated and transferred their Berkeley holdings to the State of California for the construction of the new state university.

Once the University moved to Berkeley in 1873, the town had a reason to grow. Church people, tired of spending a half day's travel by wagon to attend services, began to form discussion groups that led to the founding of Berkeley congregations. Samuel Hopkins Willey had urged the building of "halls and churches and homes ... so attractive that the students cannot stay away from them." First Congregational Church of Berkeley was the first to be organized, beginning services and a Sunday School in 1874 and receiving recognition on December 1, 1874. St. Mark's Episcopal Church began as a mission church authorized by the first Bishop of California, in February 1877. First Presbyterian Church was founded on March 31,1878, the day before the city of Berkeley was incorporated. And Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1883. All were located near the University campus and took as their task ministry to the students and faculty of the University and the community that was growing up around it. The Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish began as a Catholic students club in 1898, with an assistant priest from a Berkeley parish providing spiritual direction. That priest was Father John J. Cantwell, later to become Archbishop of Los Angeles. First Church of Christ Scientist was organized by Berkeley residents who were members of First Church of Christ Scientist, Oakland.

All these congregations met elsewhere in Berkeley before the churches they now occupy were built. St. Mark's, completed in 1902 in time for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first services, is one of California's earliest buildings in Mission Revival Style. …

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