Wide shot view of St. George's sanctuary centered on altar, organ, and Christ statue.

Our Mission

St. George’s Episcopal Church in Riverside is a loving Christ-filled family that provides an inclusive home of liturgy, music, outreach, and fellowship.

We are a supportive place for change as we empower each other through the Holy Spirit to do God’s work of social awareness, environmental consciousness, and spiritual growth. In thanksgiving for our abundance, we are called to serve the community. Come join us on the journey!

Large group of parishioners circled around and laying hands on one parishioner during a service.
Aerial view of the labyrinth at St. George's.

Our History

St. George’s has served the local community of Riverside since 1954.

Local History

St. George’s Episcopal Church, Riverside is located within the ancestral homelands of the Soboba Band of Luiseno, and the Cahuilla tribes. While there is no archeological evidence of a permanent indigenous community in this area, there have been artifacts found in the river bottom area and stone grinding rocks at the base of Mt. Rubidoux. These tribes had more permanent communities further east in what is now Riverside county.

Spanish explorers began to inhabit the area in the late 1700’s, with Juan Bautista DeAnza leading his second expedition across our neighborhood as he crossed the Box Springs grade to the Santa Ana River, crossing the river on New Year’s Day, 1775. Spanish settlers established large cattle ranches and introduced orange trees from their native Spain. The trees thrived, but there was no standardization for propagation or commercialization for the next hundred years.

In 1873 Eliza Tibbetts (as all third graders in Riverside learn!), convinced the newly-formed Bureau of Agricultural to let her be a test grower and introduced two naval orange trees that she had ordered from Brazil. By the mid-1880’s five large packing houses had been built to meet the commercial demands of fruit processing, and additional “citrus cities” in the surrounding area were developed. Several patents came from those early Riverside citrus growers, with the invention of citrus heaters, citrus washers and other machinery in the packing industry. In 1886 the Santa Fe Railroad established a rail line to ship citrus east, and in 1894 the first refrigerated rail cars, along with innovative irrigation systems, were introduced to Riverside’s citrus growing citrus industry.

In 1907 a Citrus Experiment Station was started in Riverside by the US Department of Agriculture to assist citrus growers in being competitive with the Florida citrus industry. The current Citrus Experiment Station building was established at the base of Box Springs Mountain in 1917, and the surrounding area, where the church currently stands, was soon planted as experimental groves, and the Station expanded with departments of agricultural chemistry, plant physiology, plant pathology, entomology, plant breeding, and orchard management. In 1952, the assistant director of the Experiment Station was named Dean of the University of California School of Agricultural Science, forming the basis for the campus that exists there today. The first students at UC Riverside arrived in 1954.

Church History

As areas of Riverside grew, the Rev. Henry Clark Smith, the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church (in downtown Riverside), saw the need to serve the growing community at the north end of town, as well as the Arlington area. He established the mission churches of St. George’s and St. Michael’s, offering a communion service once a month for each congregation, with lay leaders guiding the worship the other Sundays. Women of the St. George’s congregation did catering at All Saints to raise money for a permanent building.

The congregation originally met in the Highgrove area, the first service being held in 1954, and had acquired land on Columbia Avenue. Members of the UCR faculty and staff began joining the congregation. Eventually the land was sold when a freeway overpass was constructed, and the current plot of land was purchased in 1964. Ground was broken for the building early in 1966 and the first service was in June 1966. The organ was one inherited from All Saints when they acquired a new one.

In 1975 the church acquired property on Valencia Hill Dr. that served as a vicarage until it was sold in 1994. The church was granted parish status in 1982. In 1983 the rental house on the property was refurbished for use as the church offices, and named in honor of Betty Coleman to recognize her gifts and services to our congregation. The ‘90’s brought physical changes as the circle project created the labyrinth, columbarium and gated garden, and in 1995 the interior was changed as housing for the new organ and pipes was created, and the stained glass windows were added.

Priests of St. George’s:

  • 1954-1961, Dr. Henry Clark Smith
  • 1961-1963, Esmond Ferris August
  • 1963-1964, Kent H. Pinneo
  • 1964-1965, Henry L. Dittmar
  • 1965-1969, James C. Thompson
  • 1969-1972, Rollo Boas
  • 1973-1977, Robert Rible
  • 1977-1985, George Councell
  • Allan Chalfant
  • Fred Manville
  • Gillett Bechtel
  • 1986-1995, Gene Wallace
  • 1995 Mar-Sept, Richard Rubin
  • 1995-1996, Albert Ogle
  • 1996-2003, Joanna Sartorius
  • 2003-2005, Victoria Hatch
  • 2005-2006, Ray Fleming
  • 2006-2011, Paul Price
  • 2011, Paul Lawson
  • 2012-2021, Khushnud Azariah
  • 2021-Current, Karri Backer

Choir directors

  • Bill Reynolds
  • Byron Adams
  • Brett Bolte
  • Mattie Scully
  • Dr. Virginia Haisten
  • Diane David
  • Dr. Virginia Haisten


  • Frances Davis
  • Chris Reynolds
  • Ann Marie Reynolds
  • Brett Bolte
  • Marc Longlois
  • Genevieve Jones
  • Dr. Virginia Haisten
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