Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | July 9, 2023

Congregation Update: Cathedral Vision

Blog|The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young

Dear Friends,

When I think about Grace Cathedral and the spirit and support that have kept us strong, I cannot help but be aware that all around us in this beautiful city, things are not the way we want them to be.

Two San Francisco hotels account for 9% of the hotel rooms in the city, the massive Westfield Mall on Market Street, and other owners of downtown businesses are leaving the keys on the counter for the bankers and walking away from billions of dollars of investments. Dozens of familiar businesses are simply abandoning the city as we experience layoffs and shocking rates of vacancies in commercial real estate.

The struggles of those who suffer the most in this city continue to ripple outwards, and we seem to have lost our way when meeting people’s most basic needs for housing, clothing, safety, and respect. When we travel, people ask, “Is it really as bad as they say it is in San Francisco?”

In this country, young people are experiencing a mental health epidemic. Older people struggle with a debilitating crisis of meaning as work becomes increasingly detached from what humanizes us. Many people have simply given up on ever having career employment ever again. Our elders feel abandoned and alone. Suicide and addiction claim ever-increasing numbers of lives.

We despair over the damage we are doing to the planet, ongoing wars overseas, the persistence of prejudice at home, and the state of politics in America.

This is what a spiritual crisis looks like. We have forgotten the mystery of our existence, the miracle of our lives, the beauty surrounding us, the God who always calls us to return.

At Grace Cathedral, when we talk about our vision of a spiritually alive world, we have in mind Jesus’ picture of the Kingdom or Realm of God, a world in which every person feels love and has the chance to do the ministry that each of us was created to do. That is the world that we imagine and that we are working to bring into existence along with other communities in our society.

When we talk about the particular part of this vision that is the cathedral’s responsibility, we refer to our mission which is to reimagine church with courage, joy, and wonder. The modern world desperately needs parts of our tradition, but not all of it. Every generation must decide what God is calling us to pass on.

Right now is a crucial moment for us. People in this wounded city come to us during worship, yoga, sound bath, and many events. People in this damaged world have been finding us online. We touch the lives of thousands of people every month, and we need to learn more about these new friends and how they might experience God’s grace in our community.

In this year of poetry, I have been thinking about a poem from Gwendolyn Brooks’ called “One Needs a Teller at a Time Like This.” 

One wants a Teller in a time like this.

One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown,

To bear enormous business all alone.

One cannot walk this winding street with pride,

Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,

Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.

One wonders if one has a home.

One is not certain if or why or how.

One wants a Teller now:

Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch cold.

Here’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday School.

Be patient, time brings all good things – (and cool

Strong balm to calm the burning at the brain?) – 

Behold, Love’s true, and triumphs, and God’s actual.

The world needs to know that God is actual… that God is acting, and that God is so interleaved into our inner life and the outer world that it makes no sense to question the reality of God.

At the end of the summer, we will be re-embarking on a strategic planning process for the cathedral. I pray that you will help us reimagine church and re-state the good news of Jesus as we have received it for this new time.

May God bless and keep you wherever you find yourself as you read these words.


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