top of page

Our History


Covenant Presbyterian of Palo Alto began its life in 1951 as an offshoot of First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. A select group of members bought a literal pea patch near Wilbur Middle School in southern Palo Alto and built our current Fellowship Hall on the lot. For the first few years, all worship services were held in this hall while the main sanctuary was designed and built.

All construction of Covenant was done by our members as a labor of love.

san jose.png

The San Jose Presbytery

During our 70+ years of existence, Covenant Presbyterian has contributed in a big way to the San Jose Presbytery and to the community at large. We have had multiple elders serve as moderators and were major contributors to many of the Presbytery’s initiatives, especially in missions.


Over the more than five decades that my family and I have been members of Covenant Presbyterian Church, we have seen one friend after another step up and serve as moderator of our San Jose Presbytery — and that is a big job. Four ruling elders (one of whom is serving currently), and many pastors. And some have served more than once. This makes me both grateful and proud. We are not a large church, and our presbytery had over 40 churches for a number of these years. Some of these friends would even challenge themselves to make appearances and speak at as many of the churches as possible during the one-year term. As a result, we all at Covenant were especially well connected with the other churches in our presbytery. I am thankful for all our moderators.

 Rudy Dyck

Elder & Church Librarian

Don Mason

Our pastor in our earlier years, Don Mason, showed us how to conduct "Family Clusters" that were always "intergenerational", that is, they included young kids and seniors.  A central focus of these Family Clusters was to be learning about how our American eating habits can have hidden costs.  For example, much more time and energy go into producing a pound of beef versus producing a pound of chicken.  Our library has a copy of Don's PhD thesis that deals with all of this.


Pro-LGBTQ Initiatives

Don Mason was also involved in providing support for Measure B in 1981. This was a pro-LGBTQ rights initiative that was far ahead of its times, and which, despite being a local county measure, garnered lots of attention nationwide and within Christianity at large.


Here are a few highlights from our history as a church:

The beginning of our Boy Scouts troop

This troop was established in 1959, we have always met at Covenant Presbyterian Church for troop meetings, ever since it was established. In 1990 we had about 4 to 5 scouts, which was the Troops lowest point in Scouts. Ever since, we have been able to grow, by telling Cub Scouts about our Troop in advance. We now have about 50-60 scouts, and even have a girl’s troop.


Donaldina Cameron 

Donaldina Cameron was a member of Covenant in her later years and was known for her ministry to Chinese-American girls in San Francisco.  She worshipped at Covenant regularly with a close friend of hers. A book and a movie were created based on her life story. 


Donaldina was a New Zealand-born American Presbyterian missionary who was a pioneer in the fight against slavery in San Francisco's Chinatown, who helped more than 2,000 Chinese immigrant girls and women escape from forced prostitution or indentured servitude.[1] She was known as "Fahn Quai" or the "White Devil" of Chinatown, as well as the "Angry Angel of Chinatown" and "Lo Mo".[2] 

From Wikipedia

Ed Arnold

Ed Arnold was a city councilman for years and served as mayor for some of that time. 


Isaiah Jones, Jr. 

Our former pastor, Isaiah Jones Jr., made one recording after another, before and during his years at Covenant.  He wrote gospel songs, sang, and accompanied himself at the piano.  He also organized gospel choirs and directed them.  Our library has several of his recordings. Pastor Jones authored more than 100 hymns and won a grammy in 1973. Pastor Isaiah Jones Jr. was briefly a member of the Fifth Dimension. He played piano for a time and was featured on the band’s “Border Song.”


His works have appeared in Presbyterian, United MethodistLutheranEpiscopalBaptist, and Catholic hymnals. "Fill My Cup" (1969) has been recorded by over 15 groups. "God Has Smiled on Me" was featured in the 1988 movie Clara's Heart. In 1973, the Gospel Music Academy named him "best songwriter of the year". He performed on Robert Shuller's television show Hour of Power and with the Billy Graham Crusade, and in 2001 on the nationally syndicated radio broadcast The Protestant Hour.[1][3][4] In 2001, he recorded the album Everlasting God Be Blessed.

From Wikipedia

Margaret Willis Boles

Rev. Dr. Margaret Willis Boles, received her undergraduate degree in music from Western Connecticut State College, a Master of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary with doctoral courses at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology of Matanzas in Cuba and a class at the Presbyterian Office of the United Nations. She is an ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 


In addition to being an energetic, warm, and talented pastor, she and her husband John delighted the congregation with their interest in musical theater and they staged a number of productions during their time at Covenant. Her doctoral research focused on the transformation that is possible through mission experiences around the world, which fueled an increase in mission giving and participation at Covenant, including mission trips to Indonesia, Guatemala, New York City, Kenya, Tanzania as well as Puerto Rico, New Jersey and the US Gulf Coast for hurricane recovery and restoration. Margaret has worked in a variety of settings for more than four decades, including key roles in the San Jose Presbytery, and retired from Covenant in October, 2022 after 12 years of service.

The Founding of
the Children’s Center

Another major contribution to our community is the Covenant Children's Center (CCC). It is a non-profit organization that has been providing quality daycare & preschool for the children of Palo Alto, ages two months to pre-kindergarten, since 1978. CCC operates on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church and serves the entire community.

Although many, many members have come and gone throughout the years, Covenant continues to be The Little Engine that Could. Although it is not a large church, it continues to flourish as a very friendly, inclusive, spiritual “place to belong” where allcomers are welcome!

bottom of page