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Bayne Merritt’s Beautiful Leap of Faith

Merritt+says+he+%22couldn%27t+ask+for+a+nicer+work+experience%22
Merritt says he

Merritt says he "couldn't ask for a nicer work experience"

Merritt says he "couldn't ask for a nicer work experience"

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Bayne Merritt is the unobvious yet consummate representative of the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. Merritt has worked as the office assistant at the church for almost three years after locating the job on a Craigslist ad. Although he lives in Santa Rosa, Merritt commutes on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. At the church, he does “all sorts of office type work,” mostly organizing events for the church and responding to members.

Born in San Francisco, and raised in Daly City, Merritt has never been religious. Though the first church he went to was “probably” a Presbyterian church, he was seldom exposed to religion, let alone the specific denomination practiced at his now place of work. His parents were not frequent churchgoers, but Merritt would occasionally join his friends’ families to their places of worship, curious about the activity that captivates so many around the world. As an adult, Merritt moved back to San Francisco, and then to Marin. He lived in San Rafael in the 80’s, and says that “coming back here brings lots of good memories.” Merritt also spent time living in Southern California before settling down in Santa Rosa.

The First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael was originally founded on the corner of 3rd and E Street–two blocks from its current location on 5th and E–in 1869. Dating back to a time when San Rafael only had 600 residents, and traffic on Fourth Street consisted mainly of people on horseback, the Church has always been a humanitarian center of the city. Dedicated to being a community of faith that embraces people from all walks of life, FPCSR’s mission states three main tenets: a) Heal, reconcile and bind up wounds, b) Address needs of the poor, and c) Help people who are oppressed, hungry, and suffering. Through coordinated programs and volunteer action, the Church more than lives up to its noble objectives. FPCSR is a founding member of the REST program which helps provide food and shelter to homeless men during the winter months. The church also offers after school education to a local elementary school, donates food and prepares monthly meals for the Mill Street Center, and supports national causes for affordable housing and climate control.

The First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael is a sought after location for a variety of religious and secular events, and for non-profit groups that wish to utilize the space at the church, Merritt is the gatekeeper. As the office assistant, he is the first person contacted by such groups and is tasked with coordinating the location, date, and time of the events. Whether it is a seminar, lecture, or Tai Chi class, Merritt keeps everything organized, fortifying the hospitable contributions of the church. He is not just entrusted with the logistical, however, as Merritt is also relied upon to determine if the group is “in line with the mission of the Church.”

Similar to how he coordinates FPCSR’s external affairs, Merritt plays an integral role within the church on Sundays, as he sets up both the 8:30 and 10:00 services and runs a powerpoint presentation with hymn lyrics in the latter ritual. After the services, Merritt locks up the church and returns to Santa Rosa, greeted eagerly by his three dogs and cat. Experiencing the weekly morning sermons, even as a secular bystander, has lightened his stance on religion. When describing these services he says that the pastors often “don’t seem like they are preaching,” but that they are just advocating for a more loving and unified world.

While he is still not religious, Merritt says he has found a greater appreciation for churches during his time at FPCSR. Interested more in the communal aspect than the spiritual experience, Merritt notes that churches often “serve as communities among themselves.” He praises all the good done by the members of the church and says that interacting with them is his favorite thing about the job. He best summarized his own glowing opinions of the church when he stated “It’s hard not to appreciate all the good that this Church does for this community and the people it serves” and after meeting and talking with him, I’m sure every member of the church reciprocates this notion towards Merritt. He is invaluable to FCPSR, as he keeps everything running smoothly, and allows for them to continue their valiant work in the community. After being involved with the church for almost three years, he has one very compassionate wish: “My wish for FPCSR is to continue to grow its membership which in turn helps improve the lives of more people.”

On the surface, it might be hard to understand why someone who is non-religious has such an emotional attachment to a church. Upon further inspection, however, it becomes quite clear. Merritt and the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael are very much alike. They both work earnestly and unobtrusively to improve their environments, and they markedly surpass the expectations of their respective titles. Merritt has seen and experienced the best of religion and in response, he has humbly invested himself in the church; because, like Merritt, the struggle to make the world a better place is non-denominational.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Bayne Merritt’s Beautiful Leap of Faith”

  1. Bob McManus on April 17th, 2017 8:16 am

    I very much enjoyed reading this article. I have had the privilege of knowing Bayne for many years, and his commitment to social justice, and kindness and compassion to everyone he meets are his most distinctive characteristics. I’m so happy to see him recognized in this way.

    [Reply]

  2. Susan Strong on November 27th, 2017 6:25 pm

    Wow!, nice write-up. You have described Bayne as I and many others would; consistent, invaluable, and very committed. He’s a rock star, a trailblazer, and rare.

    One of Bayne’s ideas in the 80’s; was to sell vegetarian burritos and avocado toast out of a truck! What a concept, a food truck? Really? Who knew!

    Bayne, do you think this is your 15 minutes of fame? No way, only the beginning.

    Thanks FPCSR

    [Reply]

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