Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | April 19, 2024

Congregation Update: Looking Through the Window to Heaven

Blog|The Rev. Joe C. Williams

Dear friends,

This week it was a joy to be reminded of an icon writing class I took wile in seminary. I was looking for a different way to pray and ground myself before my final semester of studies and jumped at the chance to participate. The experience remains one of the most sacred in memory. 

We chose as our subject Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indigenous saint in the Roman Church, and one of several in our own calendar. The process was slow, taking nearly a week for a small icon. We etched the outline on wood, used a mixture of clay and water to allow the gold leaf to stick and, using our breath, our very essence, gilded the halo. Using natural pigments blended with egg yolk and water, we pushed the color into position, going from dark to light, shadow, and highlight. Slowly, the image began to appear in front of us. In time each of us became one with Kateri, our individual stories blending, recognizing the divine in each other. 

Icons have been described as “windows to heaven” – yet they’re not three dimensional. They are made to suggest depth and is not a representation of our world but suggest the beauty of the kingdom of God. Praying while writing the icon encourages us to become one with the subject; to know them more deeply.

Commemorating the saints with prayer each day is one of my favorite aspects of our tradition. Learning about their contributions reminds me to look around and see the contributions that are being made in our time and in this place. I invite you to join me in prayer and remembrance of those we remember in the church calendar, both ancient and modern, as we pray morning prayer on Zoom Monday through Friday each week at 9 am; join us in person or online for Evening Prayer each Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm, or for Choral Evensong on Thursday’s at 5:30 pm.. We also have a mid-week celebration of the eucharist in the Chapel of the Nativity each Wednesday at 12 pm in addition to our Sunday eucharists at 8:30 am, 11 am, and 6 pm.

These offerings of prayer are wonderful ways to build community, be in conversation with God and provide a brief respite during our often busy days. I pray you’ll be able to join me.

Grace also offers many other ways to engage, including our upcoming Earth Fair taking place on April 28. There, you’ll be able to learn about resources for green living and spirituality, participate in a treasure swap, view a mid-price EV demonstration, join in eco-crafts with our children and so much more.

With so many opportunities to pray and be in community, I hope you’ll look at the calendar on our website to find ways to connect.

I hope to pray with you soon.


The Rev. Joe C. Williams

P.S. Our annual Congregation Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, California is coming up this Memorial day weekend on Saturday, May 25 through Monday, May 27. Learn more and book your room today!

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