Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | February 10, 2023

Congregation Update: Church Speak and God Talk

Blog|The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi

Dear Friends,

Last week I had the great pleasure of announcing the appointment of the Rev. Joe Williams as Grace Cathedral’s Succentor. I am grateful for your responses. I gathered from them that there was a degree of Episcopalianese in the announcement, and a few clarifying comments would be helpful.

First, on titles: although Anglicans talk about worship in the vernacular, part of our inheritance is Latin, as exemplified by the terms Precentor and Succentor. You’ll see in them the common root “centor,” Latin for cantor. The Precentor was historically the first cantor, who led the assembly in worship. The Succentor was the second cantor. In Grace Cathedral’s context, the Precentor is the director of liturgy and a canon, or adviser to the dean, with responsibility for the department. The Succentor is the deputy, an ordained person with particular areas of oversight in the liturgical life and supportive (but not administrative) responsibilities in others. The Succentor is also equipped to act on the Precentor’s behalf when necessary.

Second, about the Precentor’s department: full staffing of the Precentor’s department is about 3.5 FTE’s, working in concert with a fully staffed and formed Office of Music and Office of the Congregation. As you may know, the last time the Office of the Congregation was fully staffed was in October 2020. For the Precentor’s Office, that was April 2021. The result is that we have a number of critical functions with no redundancy, which is especially vulnerable to predictable variables like getting sick (Murphy’s law!) or taking a couple of days off. The Succentor is not intended to replace me, or to allow me or the department to take on additional responsibilities. Rather, the Succentor is foundational to the continuity of operations in the department and the liturgical life of the cathedral.

If etymology and operations don’t make your soul sing, here is the part that most pertains to you: it is the duty of all Christians to work, pray and give for the kingdom of God — the Beloved Community. While human labor and money make work possible, it is no accident that prayer is at the center of that trifecta. Prayer is what allows us to work wisely, within our capacities, to build upon our strengths and make room for weaknesses. It’s what inspires us to labor on a project, but not grind to exhaustion, or to the exclusion of health, home, or leisure. Prayer is also what allows us to have an honest accounting of our assets and appetites, and to share generously and freely.

We are approaching an inflection point in the liturgical year, when we turn from Epiphany’s themes of light and God’s self-revelation to the Lenten rigor of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, this year February 19, resounds with alleluias and the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, prefiguring the resurrection. We celebrate this year with Circlesongs with Bobby McFerrin and Motion at 10:30 am, a special musical collaboration with composer and author Parris Lane at 11 am, and welcoming the Rev. Joe Williams at all three Eucharists. Then, at 6 pm, our shouts of joy sung in the Eucharist carry us out to the plaza, where we burn last year’s palms from Palm Sunday in a rite of Palms to Ashes. All are encouraged to bring last year’s palms to services on February 19.

We begin our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, this year, February 22, with Morning Prayer at 9 am, and Holy Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes at noon and 6 pm. The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) will be offered from 10 am to 11:45 am and 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances … the one who calls you is faithful.

With love,


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