During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent lots of time jogging around the city. My usual route was from my apartment in the Tenderloin, up the hill on Taylor, then I’d sit by the water near Ghirardelli Square. Grace Cathedral was always on the path, and what drew me in was the strong, clear message that “ALL ARE WELCOME HERE,” and I began to visit regularly.
Some time has passed since then, and I couldn’t be more grateful for Grace Cathedral. I’ve become involved in many ways: joining the stewardship committee, starting my second year in the Education for Ministry program, and taking on various roles at the 11 o’clock service (my favorite is carrying the heavy but very special crosses). Recently I found the Grace Cathedral poetry group, where we’ve read and discussed lots of beautiful works by talented poets. One of my favorite Grace experiences is the Wednesday evening Vine service, here at the labyrinth.
And because the theme of this year’s stewardship is courage, I’d like to share my story with you.
I love to dance. I’ve danced ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and even cheerleading, but life kept me from pursuing this passion. I haven’t danced in years, so when I heard about an audition, I thought, “I might fail at this, I’m not going,” but a gentle voice nudged me: “Give this opportunity a chance, you might take away something special.”
I was so nervous. But as soon as the audition started, as soon as we started dancing, there it was: my irresistible and undeniable love for self-expression. I was surrounded by people with tremendous gifts, and I was on fire with joy.
I did not get the part, but later that evening, I shared it with my Vine family, and I was able to overcome my fear. I even showed them a couple of counts of choreography after the service. Later that week, I received an email from the planning committee of Grace Cathedral’s Pride Mass asking if I’d like to have a role in the service. The offertory could use some dancing and movement. Oh, yes.
Grace Cathedral was adorned with color, filled with uplifting music, and everybody radiated with joy for the Pride Mass. I was wearing a long, golden skirt, and with every movement felt like it had a life of its own. As the moment approached and I was getting ready to dance, my heart raced with self-doubt: “What if I fail? What if I disappoint the people that believed in me and never believe in me again?” My eyes were beginning to swell, but then, there it was, as soon as the song started, with the same intense energy that nudged me to audition in the first place: courage.
In an instant, all the criticism and self-doubt were washed away by the profound message in front of me. Be. Here. Now. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.
My dear friends, this place, and our time together fills my heart with so much joy. I am nowhere from perfect, but in this place, I am made a fuller person. As we start the new stewardship season, I am committing myself to more courageous action, and I’m looking forward to new adventures together. Pledging, and giving generously, is our concrete action to commit to the longevity of our spiritual home.
Grace Cathedral taught me that every being deserves dignity, and the chance to flourish in their own time and in their own way.
I’ll close with this: To the fifteen-year-old version of myself—the secretly gay, Catholic altar boy in the Philippines who practiced dance every night, “You’re going to be okay.” You will meet lots of people who will touch your life, and they will lift you up in tremendous ways. You will fail and stumble so many times, and it will be very scary; yes, there will be a lot of work, but have faith . . . have courage.
Fall is stewardship season in the Episcopal Church. It is a time for us to show our appreciation for the love we experience in our caring, inclusive community. Our participation in the stewardship campaign means that we make the ministry and message of Grace possible. When we pledge, we become a part of something bigger than each of us individually. Join us in pledging today.