Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

The Fall 2019 issue of Grace Notes, our seasonal publication that lets you know about all the exciting events going on at the cathedral, is now available! Read the new edition online.

Please take our 2019 Congregation Survey! It is open until midnight on Sunday, July 21.

The fourth episode of our new podcast, Above the Fog, is out and available here or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, Walking Together, our podcaster-in-residence Catherine Girardeau explores walking and community with Montana-based writer Antonia Malchik, including how to do good in a divisive world, and moments when walking becomes prayer.

The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King, our Executive Pastor and Canon for Social Justice, wrote a letter addressed to public officials demanding an end to the detention of children and separation of families at our southern border. All members of the clergy and lay leaders from across religious faiths who are mandated reporters of child abuse are encouraged to sign the letter by adding their name to the list here.

The letter was featured in an article The Episcopal Café. You can read the article in full here and see the letter below.

Dear _,

The horrific spectacle of children being separated from their parents, detained, and held in deplorable conditions is shaming our nation in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of God. This has to stop.

We the undersigned are clergy and lay leaders from across religious faiths who are mandated reporters of child abuse, and thus legally required to report such behavior to the relevant authorities. We would therefore be remiss in our civil as well as our religious duty if we did not draw your attention to this unlawful neglect and abuse of minors in the detention centers on our southern border.

Our humanity is outraged at this treatment carried out by our own country. Let us know what steps you will be taking as a public servant to rectify this immoral state of affairs.

The third episode of our new podcast, Above the Fog, is out and available here or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, Walking Solo, our podcaster-in-residence Catherine Girardeau explores how tightrope walking has influenced two people, one for the better and one for the worse.

The Spring 2019 issue of Grace Notes, our seasonal publication that lets you know about all the exciting events going on at the cathedral, is now available! Read the new edition online.

The second episode of our new podcast, Above the Fog, is out and available here or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, our podcaster-in-residence Catherine Girardeau explores the city of San Francisco on foot with author Gary Kamiya.

The Winter 2019 issue of Grace Notes, our seasonal publication that lets you know about all the exciting events going on at the cathedral, is now available! Read the new edition online.

On November 16 and 17, Grace will host the San Francisco premiere of Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Ritea monumental original choral work by renowned singer/composer Holcombe Waller that invokes remembrance and peace for the dead who suffered persecution for their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Waller’s Requiem Mass has garnered media attention from across the Bay Area, including articles by 48 HillsKQED and SF Weekly, which noted that  “the explicit goal of Requiem Mass is a catharsis, something that’s more closely associated with communion rather than community.”

Last night, our own Carol James delivered an amazing homily at The Vine. You can read her words of wisdom below.

Jesus, looking at the young man, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

What happened next for this young man?  Jesus’ inner circle, based on the color commentary that follows, seems to think that’s the end.  He won’t be back.  The call of worldly goods is inevitably stronger than the call of God.  Jesus gently points beyond that grim conclusion, that God can be embraced as a partner in the process, but there’s no real resolution within this story.  As far as we can tell, the rich young man never returns.

Shall we try to imagine the life of this person of privilege, before and after this encounter?  Maybe he was born into unassailably comfortable circumstances – had never experienced anything else.  Maybe he was beloved by his family and invited to all the great parties, because he loved being at the center of attention.  Maybe he had a lot of ideas about how he could stay at the center of attention.  He was going to travel, and write poems, and win battles, and wear gorgeous clothes, and everyone was going to know when he walked by, that there went somebody.

And in the middle of all these big dreams and youthful hijinks and promises to get serious and settle down to dad’s business, eventually, there’s… an itch, maybe you’d call it?  It couldn’t be a voice, could it?  Only crazy people hear voices, and he’s just a high-spirited semi-rascal sowing some oats.

And even as he tried to turn down the volume of the voice, he couldn’t help seeing things too – things on the rim of his own safe and ordered world, the experiences of other people.  Poor people.  Sick people.  Despised people.  People with no power or voice.  God put them there, in their proper places, right?  You couldn’t just go messing with the rules of the game, could you?  Could you?

And the voice of your teacher, who loved you, said, “Yes, it’s great that you’ve played by the rules, but now it’s time to up-end them, to go deeper into what I love and what you love.  What you have doesn’t protect you.  It has swaddled all your senses shut, and to be fully alive, you have to get free.”

And you walked away from him grieving.

The young man nicknamed Francesco (his mother was French, so when you call him Francis, you’re participating in some centuries of good-natured ribbing) – he kept walking.  His walk was long and full of conflict and illness and bitter fights with his family and false starts and misunderstandings and ridiculously dramatic gestures and idealism and bitter depression and good god so much administration and negotiation.

And he comes down to us through history as the guy holding a birdbath.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the guy with the birdbath.  He’s a desperately needed vision of what happens when the people of God choose to live with creation rather than above it or outside it.  He opens a doorway to the wisdom and generosity that each of us who shares our lives with an animal blesses every day (…when someone isn’t chewing shoes or destroying the blinds). He gives us words to celebrate our enduring connection with all that lives.

But when I’m inviting us to see Francis as the young man walking away from Jesus grieving, I’m inviting us to look at where our own feet are pointing, and why we’re tempted to stop at Brother Sun and Sister Moon and the good wolf of Gubbio. Do we really want to accompany Francis to where he was really trying to get – standing beside Lady Poverty?

Our reading from Genesis this evening reminds us that the default settings for our good, glorious, wounded world are abundance and generosity.  Every weed pushing itself up through a sidewalk crack continues the tale.  Life wants to rise, wants to multiply, wants to expand, wants to interact with other life.

And yet a chill, and an anticipatory grief rises up in us when we’re asked to keep that abundance in motion, by passing along the blessings we’ve received so freely.  Apparently we – and I absolutely include myself here – don’t trust there is more.  Don’t trust that with God all things are possible.  Don’t trust ourselves to participate fully in the flow of creation, don’t trust that our gifts are valuable, don’t trust that each of us, fully and completely ourselves as we exist today, are essential participants in God’s work.

How do we build that trust? Like we build any foundational skill – we practice.  We do it again and again and again, and many times we do it clumsily, unwillingly, whining and manufacturing objections every step of the way.  And eventually, hopefully, we claw our way to competence, and with God’s help, maybe even some portion of grace.

These are hard days to undertake a practice of trust, and a practice of generosity.  In our public discourse, it’s such a short hop from humility to humiliation.  It’s easy and understandable that many of us feel so beleaguered, so under siege, that the risk of opening up and giving away seems too much.  It’s okay if today, that’s just too much.

But remember that very specific detail about what Jesus said to the rich young man who was Francis of Assisi and who is us – Jesus loved him.  Loves us.  He said to give away all we have not because he was demanding a sacrifice, or wanted to test our love, or thought it would be better for our characters if we’re miserable…  He wants us to experience, in our blood and in our bones, the power of generosity, the power of giving, and the uncountable value of what each of us has to give.  Wants us to know the joy of wide open arms.

I have been thinking a lot about the gifts we have to give these days…  I think about the gift Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave us of her fear and her pain.  Whatever happens next, she gave us something priceless, direct from her heart, where our own need to speak the truth of who we are and what we’ve experienced could be roused and emboldened, as so many uglier impulses have been roused and emboldened in these dark days.  We need to see what it looks like to take seriously the gifts we have to give – both the lovely and the difficult ones — to defend them, to nurture them, to cry out against their waste and deformation.  And then to give them.

God needs each and every person in this room employing their gifts at full power.  Not one of us is extraneous, or an afterthought, or a second choice.  We may be chockablock with terrible habits and embarrassing shortcomings, but there is no room for false humility as a response to God’s goodness and God’s call to action.  Take your gifts seriously, and get them out into the world. Don’t be the place where the story ends.  Don’t justify the cynicism of those jackasses who say you won’t be back.  Don’t be the place where blessings grind to a halt.  Keep them moving.  Keep yourself moving.  It’s okay to grieve.  It’s okay to be afraid.  It’s okay to mess up.  But we’re never alone, we’re never unloved, and we’re never without something vital to give.




This morning, our dean, Malcolm Clemens Young, wrote a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in response to the surge of pain in our community, nation and world.

“As a religious leader in San Francisco, nearly everyone I’ve recently spoken with has expressed terrible sadness about the testimony by Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. There are many men in important leadership positions who have for too long excused or ignored abusive behavior as if it were a normal part of growing up. This is wrong. Teenagers and young adults have as much ability as anyone else to act responsibly and to treat others with honor and dignity. We all need to be part of how we change this culture. We especially have to learn to support women as they navigate these challenges. If you have a story to tell, tell it. We need to hear from you. It is the time to seek healing. It is time to insist that every person should be treated with dignity as a child of God.”

The cathedral community also held a prayer service for survivors of sexual violence on Tuesday, October 2. Those in attendance posted their messages of “Why I didn’t Report” or “Me Too” on our “Hashtag Wall” found within the cathedral – and all members of the community are welcome to post their messages and share their stories this week.

You can also find the letter in the full article here.

Grace Cathedral is playing a key role in the Global Climate Action Summit. The cathedral will host the opening Multi-Faith Service, a special Youth Concert, three days of faith rooted workshops, and a talk with George Shultz at The Forum. Episcopal News Service wrote an article explaining how the church is involved in the Summit and in wider efforts to fight climate change.

Read more in the full article.