Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | May 19, 2023

Congregation Update: In the Midst of a Busy Life

Blog|The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi

Dear Friends, 

Among the great delights of our new flat is the local farmer’s market. It unfolds on a small street off Columbus, and its relatively small footprint boasts lively vendors, delectable produce, unparalleled sourdough, and third-wave coffee. Part of our Saturday morning shtick is for my wife Amie to wax poetic about the day’s finds, and each walk down the street is marked by some anticipation of the following week’s treats. It’s stone fruit season! 

Yesterday, I gave myself 20 minutes to run an errand that took me across the very street. This time, it was filled with flats of produce in 50-pound bags. I gazed up to see a line of people waiting to receive food, stretching down the city block and around the playground. The people standing in line were overwhelmingly ethnic-Chinese elders, standing single-file, masked, six feet apart in relative silence. And the atmosphere felt heavier than the flats of produce. Today, I made a small contribution to the San Francisco Food Bank as an acknowledgment of this shared space without common ground. 

The Daily Office lectionary has led us into the Letter of James, a small portion of the New Testament that drew great ire of the Reformers for its assertion that faith without works is dead. The letter is critical of wealth, not for its own sake, but because of its emotional power and externalities — the unseen and unjust ways that the costs are born, out of sight and out of mind. In our reading this week, a phrase leaped from the page: “Let the brother or sister of humble means boast in having a high position and the rich in having been humbled because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.” (NRSV 1:9-11) 

Absent smartphones, energy drinks, and Wi-Fi-enabled flights, exactly how busy were the rich in the pre-industrial Mediterranean? What timeless insight! Few of us are rich by local standards, but compared with the span of the globe and the centuries, many are. It is often in the disruption of business as usual that we are reminded of our relative comfort and the great gifts we have been given. And as in my neighborhood, many of the disparities are hidden in plain sight: I don’t fear hunger, and my immediate neighbors do. 

Pentecost Sunday, May 28, we welcome the Rev. Norman Fong to The Forum and the pulpit. From his humble beginnings in Chinatown, Norman has become a Presbyterian minister of deep faith, and a passionate activist for housing, social welfare, and civil rights. His generous vision of a society that seeks common ground — Norman has said to me before: we both share noodles; this is the beginning of a shared table. Please join us for this festive celebration of Pentecost, which also concludes AAPI Heritage Month. Consider what you hope for, and what you will bring to a shared table.

With love,

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

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