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Eco Wisdom of a Bike-Friendly Faith Community: First Presbyterian Church of Monterey

Some people bike to First Presbyterian Church of Monterey—e.g., City of Monterey’s since-retired Mayor Clyde Roberson, shown here with Dottie Roberson and Matthew Sleeth, MD.  Dr. Sleeth, cofounder of, shared his Earth Stewardship message at First Presbyterian in April 2007 and again in November 2019.

Looking for bike-there tips for First Presbyterian Church of Monterey? Scroll down until you see this same photo again.
Solar-powered energy production first began at the church on June 2, 2011. On October 10, 2023, the church provided the following update about its solar expansion project.

“We now have the two required approvals from PG&E; the NEM2 metering agreement and the Grid Tie Agreement. We are now in the permitting, detail planning, and parts ordering stage of the project. Our goal is to have all 120 panels installed, certified, and operating by early 2024.”

Earlier the church reported solar panels had  dropped the electric bill from $500-$800/month to about $400/year for First Presbyterian Church of Monterey. (For related photos from the initial solar installation, scroll down.)

On April 11, 2023, the church reported this too about its energy use: “Because the church replaced three natural gas furnaces with electrical Mini Split systems last year, the church’s total carbon emissions into the atmosphere has been reduced by 16%. So far this winter, the church has used 848 less therms of natural gas at a savings of $1,800 and reduced the CO2 emissions by 9,900 pounds or 16%.”

In February 2020, the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Monterey voted to concur with Monmouth Presbytery Overture to the General Assembly OVT-013 regarding fossil fuel divestment. In May 2020, FPC-Monterey received a report from the Presbytery’s May 2, 2020 meeting; at that meeting, the Fossil Fuel Divestment statement to the General Assembly was passed (approved) by the Presbytery.

FPC’s office assistant demonstrates the water-bottle refill station installed in November 2019:

This post was previously published June 17, 2011 with some subsequent updates, e.g., about Nov 16-17, 2019 tree-planting and other activities with Matthew Sleeth, MD.
Archived at the end are some 2017 and 2016 notes.

What’s with the truckload of bikes?
They were part of the church’s “Borrow-a-Bike” project. (As of August 2022, that project is not currently active.)

Church? Is this a bike church? Nope, not that kind of bike church! First Presbyterian Church of Monterey is a bike church of sorts though. Read about their bike-friendliness below.

Jay Bartow, Pastor Emeritus and Mark Peake, Pastor at

* * * * *

Celebrated leadership

Rev. Dr. Jay Bartow has pastored the First Presbyterian Church of Monterey for the past 36 years. As he begins retirement, Bicycling Monterey gives a tip of the helmet to this eco-wise Monterey County minister, who has led his congregation not only in spiritual ministry but in environmental stewardship too.

As Lisa Crawford Watson reported in “Out to Pastor,” in the June 10, 2011 Monterey County Herald, Jay Bartow is “known for his righteous presence in the community….active in, among others, Rotary, the Salvation Army, and the Veterans of Fort Ord.”  His heart for humanity, and for all life on Earth, is part of what makes this intellectually gifted leader so highly respected.  Read Watson’s story to learn more.

Visiting First Pres? Bike-there tips at end of this post.

Christian humility

In addition to Watson’s informative feature, Bicycling Monterey is highlighting a few examples of Pastor Bartow’s ecologically mindful actions, and those of his congregation.

Watson quoted Jane Leatham, a church elder and member who has been at First Pres for 43 years:   “Jay has challenged us intellectually and spiritually, while maintaining humility for himself.”

One sign of that all-too-uncommon true Christian humility?  Like Gandhi scrubbing toilets, Bartow can often be found washing dishes in the church kitchen after big events.  He isn’t want one to talk of reducing waste without backing it up with personal action; in this case, cutting back on church use of disposable plates, utensils, etc. at church functions by rolling up his sleeves and tackling the dishes.

Spiritual foundation for environmental stewardship

Dr. Bartow shares many values of  Matthew Sleeth, MD, who Jay and his wife, Gail, hosted in their home in April 2007.  First Presbyterian Church was the venue for Dr. Sleeth’s local public presentation (see Monterey County Weekly, 4/19/07, “Eco Pulpit” by Walter Ryce) as part of a Serve God, Save the Planet tour sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light, a Religious Response to Global Warming.  (For more on this site—including about Nov 16-17, 2019 tree-planting and other activities with Dr. Sleeth—see “Former ER Doc Now Attending to the Health of the Planet.”)

Bartow’s congregation is clearly tuned in.  After a recent trip to another state, a young member of the congregation commented, “I see more hybrid cars in our church parking lot on Sundays than I saw on my entire trip.”

But other transportation choices are part of First Pres church life also….

Bike-friendly church

As shown in the Bike to Worship post on this site, the church bike rack is up front and center–located in the most secure and convenient spot, near the front door of the sanctuary. While both Bartow and new pastor Mark Peake drive hybrids themselves, both also enjoy bicycling at times.

Pastors Jay Bartow and Mark Peake at First Pres, Monterey

More bike awareness shown by the congregation: Initiating a Borrow-a-Bike Project.  First Pres collected used bikes in good condition that could be given over to the Men in Transition Program (MIT) at Shelter Outreach Plus–the umbrella for MIT and other services–in Marina. (As of August 2022, FPC’s borrow-a-bike project is no longer active.)

First Pres members and friends donated twelve bikes, which they delivered to MIT.  The plan was that some of the MIT men would be able to do minor maintenance so all the bicycles would be in dependable operating condition for use by men in the program. This would extend the travel range of program participants, so they could more easily get around for job interviews, work, and other destinations.  (As needed, many would combine biking with the Monterey-Salinas Transit bike-and-ride option.)  The idea sprouted from the First Pres project Steady Job–Steady Life, founded and coordinated by church member John Clark.

Church members working with Steady Job–Steady Life participants quickly identified the challenge of transportation and the value of bicycling as an economically and environmentally sound transportation choice.  John Clark of First Pres facilitated getting donations of used bikes and equipment into the hands of organizations who could put them into best use, and whose participants most needed them.

The church’s Steady Job–Steady Life project itself sprouted from more of their good work:  as one of seven churches that founded the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Project (I-HELP) many years ago.

11/24/12 update:  Have bikes, bike gear, or maintenance repair skills to share with others in need?  See Season of Giving and Salinas Youth and Others for Bikes.

Higher power

Latest eco step for First Presbyterian Church of Monterey?  As shown below in photos taken April 27, 2011, the church has installed solar panels on its roof.  As reported on the First Pres Facebook page, solar-powered energy production began on June 2.

Real Goods installer and Joe Callaway, House and Grounds elder for First Presbyterian Church.

This is part of the church effort to “go green,” which has included such things as replacing all windows with double-planed glass and replacing all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, as well as First Presbyterian Women luncheons and some other church functions returning to a use of reusable, rather than disposable, tableware.

New pastor Reverend Mark Peake had this say on the church website,, about the new solar panels:  “We take the Biblical admonition to be caretakers of the earth seriously. We have a theological obligation to love and manage the earth’s precious resources….With the help of Real Goods Solar of Santa Cruz, a brand new solar panel array was constructed on the roof of Fellowship Hall. Our electric meter is already running backwards! On many days we will achieve a total offset of our energy use through the utilization of our solar panels.”  Check out the church’s own photos of their new solar panel array by clicking here.

Update: After sharing my 2017 photo below via Twitter, someone asked about the dry lawn. Monterey terrain is typically dry like that much of the year. Rather than use precious water to maintain a green lawn, the church decided to conserve water and substitute a green “lawn” of astroturf.

More importantly, note the church’s sign, which includes messages in Spanish and Arabic.  In the wake of immigration controversies, the church wanted to make clear that there’s no controversy there: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” 

So long for now, Pastor Bartow

As Lisa Crawford Watson reported in her Herald story, Jay Bartow’s retirement plans include visiting other churches during a Presbyterian policy-required leave of several months from First Pres.  Following that, Bartow looks forward to having Mark Peake as his own pastor.

The two co-pastored the church during a transition period, and Watson quoted Peake as having immediately recognized:  “Jay Bartow is ‘the real deal.’  He is that rare combination of person who truly practices what he preaches.”

Besides spending more time with his wife, children, and grandchildren, Bartow’s retirement plans include continuing work with projects such as Living Waters for the World.  A fluent Spanish speaker, Bartow and First Pres-Monterey members Sandy and John Larson recently partnered with Living Waters in installing clean water systems in Ecuador.

As Watson also reported, Bartow knows the value of recreation–for a healthy church congregation and for individuals.  His retirement plans include a trip to Denmark with wife, Gail.  Don’t be surprised if you see Jay Bartow bicycling the streets of Copenhagen….

To this eco-wise spiritual leader, Pastor Jay Bartow, Bicycling Monterey extends congratulations on 36 years of celebrated service–and a heartfelt thank you for making this county and world a better place.

Bike-there tips

First Presbyterian Church, 501 El Dorado, Monterey; 831.373.3031

Located roughly six blocks from the bike/multi-use path (a Class I path) in downtown Monterey, First Presbyterian Church is also a very short distance from the Monterey-Salinas Transit’s downtown Monterey plaza (bike-and-ride option).

Route for adults who prefer a boost for the uphill climb
  1. From the bike/multi-use path above Wharf #2, cross Del Monte Avenue and take Figueroa (you’ll see Lopez Taqueria and Liquor on the corner) and continue up Figueroa until it deads end; that is Church Street.
  2. Make a right on Church and go another block to Abrego.
  3. Make a left on Abrego. Go straight up Abrego, and cross Fremont (there’s a traffic signal there, and Denny’s is across the intersection, on your right).   Bike up Abrego, past the Cypress Plaza (Great Wall, Parker-Lusseau, etc.), which will be on your right.  Continue biking to the next traffic signal (at El Dorado, by Jack-in-the-Box).  Just fyi, at the El Dorado intersection, Abrego becomes Munras (see “Direx note” below).
  4. At Munras and El Dorado, make a left-hand turn onto El Dorado. How best to make the left turn safely? (a)  One option is to stay in the right lane and hop off your bike at the El Dorado intersection, then be a pedestrian and walk your bike through the crosswalk.  (b) A second option is to make your left turn on your bicycle from the left-turn lane.  Remember:  “Same roads, same rules, same rights”; and that includes that people on bicycles are to indicate their intentions with hand signaling.   (Also, remember that it is not safe to make a left turn on your bicycle from a right-hand lane! More safety tips here.)
  5. After turning left onto El Dorado, you have a lovely downhill dip that gives you a boost for the brief uphill to reach the church.  (On the return trip, that dip will boost you all the way back up to the light at El Dorado and Munras.)
  6. First Pres is on the left, just after the Alta Mesa Professional Park and two large, new homes. Go to the second church driveway and bike on in; sanctuary and bike rack are directly on your right, at the top of the property.

Direx note: Here’s a special tip to help you avoid confusion about the streets of Old Monterey: Munras becomes Abrego at El Dorado.  (Also, just fyi, Abrego becomes Washington at Pearl.)

An alternate route for biking with young children
  1. Before the trip, get your young cyclists ready by checking out these Personal Safety Tips.
  2. Ready to go?  Great! Leave the Class I bike/multi-use path above Wharf #2,  and walk your bikes up the sidewalk (to left/east side of street) until you reach the crosswalk at the Del Monte Avenue traffic light.
  3. Walk your bikes across Del Monte; you’ll now be at the corner of Del Monte and Figueroa–right in front of Lopez Taqueria and Liquor (formerly La Casa Bodega).
  4. Walk your bikes across Figueroa (in direction of that big building with no windows or sign–that’s the Monterey Sport Center).  Now you can hop back on your bikes and use the Class II bike lane to bike up Figueroa.
  5. Continue on Figueroa, past the back side of Jacks Park (with baseball field, etc.), until you reach Webster.
  6. Make a left on Webster, and continue to Camino El Estero.
  7. Make a right on Camino El Estero.
  8. Bike up Camino El Estero until you reach the T-intersection; that’s Fremont.  (The striking building on your right at the  corner of Camino El Estero and Fremont is the Marsh building–housing Orientations Fine Asian Antiques.) – NOTE: There’s no bike lane on Camino El Estero, so you may prefer to cross Camino El Estero at Webster and walk your bikes along the sidewalk of the lake/parkway all the way to Fremont.
  9. Once you reach Fremont, walk your bikes through the crosswalk that goes across Fremont to the Diocese office, right next to El Estero Car Wash.
  10. Facing the Diocese office, turn left and carefully walk in front of the car wash and continue along the sidewalk to the corner.
  11. Make an immediate right on the corner, which puts you on Mesa Road.
  12. Keep walking, then make another immediate right onto Perry Lane.  Perry Lane takes you along the backside of the El Estero Car Wash.
  13. Once you are further up the street and safely past the car wash traffic, hop back on your bikes.
  14. Continue biking to the next T-intersection and make a left onto Major Sherman Lane, a narrow and short street.  Bike the entire length of Major Sherman, all the way up to the T-intersection; that’s El Dorado.  Kids will notice the tiny wooden pedestrian bridge on the right just before El Dorado.
  15. Make a left onto El Dorado.  Here, with children, it is probably best to again walk your bikes, up the sidewalk on the left.
  16. First Pres is on the left, just after Alta Mesa Professional Park and two large, new homes. Go to the second church driveway,  and bike on in; sanctuary and bike rack are directly on your right, at the top of the property.

Children and parents will appreciate that First Pres is not only a bike-friendly, it’s also a kid-friendly place!


Real Goods Solar with “Real Deal” Pastor Jay Bartow
Archived notes: 2016-2017

In 2016, this church hosted Earth Stewardship gatherings on Humanity’s Relationship with the Earth; Climate Change; Ecological Injustice and the Impact on the Poor and Vulnerable. For more about climate change on the Bicycling Monterey site, click here.

February 25, 2017, 2 p.m. Christians and the Environment presentation with Dr. Chris Hasegawa, former director of Earth Systems Science and Policy at California State University Monterey Bay, and a former dean at CSUMB. Event is free, including free childcare and reception. Location: First Presbyterian Church of Monterey, 501 Eldorado, Monterey; details on the website.

Beginning March 12, 2017, Dr. Chris Hasegawa, former director of Earth Systems Science and Policy at California State University Monterey Bay, is leading an adult study series at First Presbyterian Church of Monterey—Lenten Discipline: An Environmental Challenge. This series of one-hour classes will focus on sharing ideas about actions people can take to be better stewards of the earth. As part of this series, on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 10 a.m., Mari Lynch will give a presentation and facilitate discussion about bicycling and bike-and-ride as environmentally friendly transportation options. The class is free, and appropriate for adults or teens. Questions about on-site children’s activities / child care, etc.? Contact the church office, 831-373-3031. Questions about the 3/12/17 bike presentation? Contact Mari, 831-375-6278.

This post was previously published June 17, 2011.

This post was published on 8 December 2012. One or more changes last made to this post on 10 October 2023.

  1. Founder, Bicycling Monterey says:

    Hi, Mark. In section 17 of Bicycling Monterey’s 33-section resources directory, you’ll find Contact Steve Benes at Gears 4 Good about your need for a bike. (Also, since you ride MST, you may find Bicycling Monterey’s bike-and-ride tips useful. And living in Gonzales, you may find Bicycling Monterey’s South County section of interest too:

    People wanting to purchase used bicycles may find helpful leads in

    For people who have bicycles to contribute, see

  2. MARK GALLEGOS says:

    I was on the MST bus today and guy mentioned to me that your organization donates bikes to those who need other means of transportation who cannot afford vehicles. If this is true, this would be great because it would save me time to get to work and home sooner. Please call me at 831-xxx-xxxx or email me. By the way, I live in Gonzales and work in Monterey. Thanks

    Mark Gallegos

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