A Historical Sketch: Trinity Church, Orthodox Presbyterian, 1986

The following article was published in a 50th anniversary book for the denomination titled The Orthodox Presbyterian Church 1936-1986 edited by Charles G. Dennison and published in 1986. This article was originally published unsigned but was written by Rev. Richard C. Miller.

In 1969 two Orthodox Presbyterian families found themselves living in Novato, California. Novato is in the northern part of Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The Williams family had come from the Goleta church and the Cantwells from Chula Vista, and both were driving 35 miles one way to worship in Berkeley. The Rev. Richard M. Lewis began a Bible class in Novato with these families and a few friends.

In May, 1970, the Rev. Robert H. Graham was invited by the Berkeley session to come to Novato to work with this group. On April 30, 1971, the session of Covenant Church, Berkeley, examined 13 people for membership. The group elected Mr. Bob Williams and Mr. Jerry Cantwell elders and expressed a desire to call Mr. Graham to be pastor.

Original caption: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Robert Graham has preached the gospel for fifty years)

On May 8, 1971, the Presbytery of Northern California approved the request of the Berkeley session to divide the congregation and to organize the Novato group as a separate church, the Novato Orthodox Presbyterian Church. On May 13, 1971, the presbytery conducted a service during which Mr. Graham was installed as pastor and the two elders were ordained and installed. The church suffered a major reverse, however, when both elders had to move away because of their employment. In September, 1972, the presbytery requested assistance for Novato from the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (which was subsequently given) and requested the Berkeley session to appoint two of its members to act as a temporary session for the church. Mr. Gus N. Espino and Mr. David L. Neilands were appointed to act in this capacity.

During the time the church was without its own elders the session authorized the congregation to elect five of its members to serve as an Advisory Council. This was a time of many trials.

Pastor Graham resigned from this post and the church was without a pastor as of November 15, 1973. The Rev. Richard M. Lewis was appointed Moderator of the session. During this time the pulpit was ably filled on many occasions by the Rev. John W. Betzold, a chaplain with the U.S. Army, and a member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

In 1974 several candidates visited Novato and the Rev. Richard C. Miller was finally called from New Jersey. He was installed on November 14, 1974. He began a class for prospective ruling elders and Mr. Salvatore A. Borruso was elected and later installed on July 13, 1975. Mr. Espino subsequently resigned, but Mr. Neilands continued to serve the Novato session until Mr. Hibbitts became an elder.

Although several disaffected families left the church a time of growth was coming in 1976 when God added several enthusiastic families to the church. From these Mr. Benjamin Simmons and Mr. Jeffrey Hibbitts later became deacon and ruling elder, respectively. At this time the name of the church was changed to Trinity Church, Orthodox Presbyterian. Later the Lord added Mr. Lyman Smith and his family. He, too, became a ruling elder. He was appointed by the presbytery to work with a group in the Marysville-Yuba City area, and this group was put under the oversight of the Novato session for a time. It was organized as Sovereign Grace Chapel, Yuba City. Mr. Smith later went on to Westminster Seminary in California, was ordained by the presbytery, and became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Darryl Moffitt and his family joined the church in 1980 and Darryl was ordained an elder in 1981 and served until 1982 when he and his family moved to Los Angeles. Throughout this time the church tried to be faithful to its calling and there were conversions. Some of these converts joined the congregation while others moved to other areas to become active in churches there. The period from 1982 through 1984 was one of trials. Sarah Miller, the pastor’s younger daughter, underwent long but successful treatment for cancer. Some of the most active families moved away because of job changes. This left the congregation with a small group of believers seeking to carry on the work of propagating the reformed faith in Marin County.


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