Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | October 7, 2022

Congregation Update: Incremental Change

Blog|The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi

Dear Friends,

Labor Day marked the official end of summer and the beginning of the program year. The cathedral moved from a summer season of catch-up and staff vacations to the beginning of something that (at least liturgically) never ended, all the while refining space use, personnel, and communications necessary for Christmas. Although at Grace Cathedral we have our own peculiarities, this swirl is less particular to Grace and more a function of being an urban cathedral. It’s largely structural.

In the midst of this busyness, each year I am caught by a pleasant surprise in the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The 8-day festival is begun on Rosh Hashanah and concludes with Yom Kippur, and at minimum, I take those two days off and go with my family to our synagogue in Berkeley. It’s a beginning and the furthest thing from an Advent Procession or Baptisms or Times Square. Celebrations start with blessings for a sweet new year, marked by apples, honey, and round challah, and travel solemnly through the line of sweeping moral inventory.

The corporate and communal nature of Judaism helps me hear that inventory in a slightly different accent than some portions of The Great Litany. Our sins may be less the inordinate and sinful affections (although they are that), and more our passive participation in systems that degrade or impoverish, our impatience or negligence with those entrusted to us, and apathy before the world in need. It is a failure to structure our lives in ways that express the right relationship and the inestimable value of all life. And these relationships, with people or systems, can’t be righted quickly. Year after year, I am humbled.

The humbling does not permit me to be overwrought or overwhelmed, just to choose again. To say no to the most compelling options and yes to the relationships that matter most. To make peace with the irreparable brokenness of this world, and decide what I can do today to inch us toward greater wholeness. Hopefully, and without the illusion of “fixing” anything, I can do my part. All human labor is incremental. Finishing it is divine.

And it is exactly that outlook that led an interfaith coalition, including many Episcopal clergies, to support San Francisco’s Proposition M. The November ballot measure would “impose a tax on owners of vacant residential units in buildings with three or more units if those owners have kept those units vacant for more than 182 days in a tax year and where no exception applies.” The tax would be used to fund housing for seniors and low-income persons. As the interfaith coalition noted in their moral statement, this is an “incremental but necessary step” to address an issue of structural inequality. I’m honored to stand with these faith leaders.

Wherever you are, consider initiatives, however incremental, that will inch this or your city toward a more just reality, a place of shelter and sustenance for many. Do it out of moral conviction or shared destiny or both? Sign a petition, attend a rally, express your support online, and calendar your time to vote. Yes, we’re all too busy, often doing important things. No, we won’t see the finish line. But we are not neutral in the local economy, or in the economy of God. So hit pause on the swirl and resolve to move forward on the local challenge you can say yes to. Even, just an inch.

Every good gift,

The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi
Canon Precentor
Director of Interfaith Engagement

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