Story of our Sanctuary

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Episcopalian church attendance in central Contra Costa County was growing rapidly and taxing the capacities of nearby St. Stephen’s Church in Orinda and St. Paul’s Church in Walnut Creek. The Diocese of California felt it was time to build a church that would serve the community of Lafayette.

The result was St. Anselm’s, which features a unique “Church in the Round” structure that calls forth the idea of Jesus as Fisherman.

It was decided that the Glenside-Burton Valley Estates area would be a suitable location. The original purchase price for the entire parcel was $35,000. The startup congregation totaled 59 members. Bishop Pike decided that the church would be named for St. Anselm because he had been an early Archbishop of Canterbury. The first service was held on February 8th of that year. St Anselm’s quickly grew in size and by October 29th had 355 communicants.

During the early years, the congregation worked to raise funds to build a sanctuary on the property they had acquired. Until the sanctuary was completed, the congregation and church school met all over Lafayette: in the Park Theatre, at the Chapel of the Valley Mortuary, in the garage of the vicarage, and in various local doctors’ offices. Construction began in May of 1960 and the first service was held on September 25, 1960. The church was officially dedicated on October 22, 1960, by Bishop Pike, assisted by Rev. Clarence Stacey and the Right Rev. Henry Shires, the retired suffragan bishop. The total cost was $131,000, a very reasonable price for a church building at that time.