Don’t miss Carnivale @ Grace Cathedral on February 21, 2023! Learn More at gracecathedral.org/carnivale.
Christine Bensen sat down with Carnivale co-chair Clement Xue to get all the details about this year’s preeminent Mardi Gras Gala.
Christine: How did Carnivale @Grace Cathedral begin?
Clement: Carnivale began in 2011 to celebrate, recognize and inspire the philanthropy that supports the mission of Grace Cathedral. Hosted onsite, Carnivale transforms the cathedral space and honors it as a place for celebration, the joy of connection across our community, and our capacity for innovation. Since 2017, we have engaged San Francisco-based media personality Liam Mayclem as our auctioneer, catalyzing our fundraising success. Betty Yu, KPIX TV reporter, will join Liam as co-host for the second consecutive year.
Christine: What does Grace Cathedral offer for the people of San Francisco?
Clement: For over 60 years, Grace has been known as a beacon of progressive social justice issues. In the 60s, Grace welcomed the preaching of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. In the 90s, Grace welcomed those who were living and dying with AIDS when no one else would. Today, we continue this tradition by welcoming those who want to combat climate change, gun violence, homelessness, food insecurity, and modern-day slavery while providing an environment to explore one’s spirituality in traditional church worship, modern progressive worship, meditation, yoga, the arts, and music. In addition, Grace provides opportunities to give back to the neediest of our community through our affiliation with Glide and the Bayview Mission, as well as our intentionally socioeconomically diverse community preschool serving neighboring communities.
Christine: How does Carnivale support Grace’s mission of reimagining church with courage, joy, and wonder?
Clement: Carnivale is the primary fundraiser event that supports Grace Cathedral and its programs. It is a time to be reminded of and celebrate the gifts we all share as we look to the time of renewal that is Spring!
The proceeds from Carnivale go to support the many ministries at Grace, programming for music and the arts, as well as its mission to be a voice for social justice in the country and the world.
Christine: What are some of the programs that Grace offers other than church services?
Clement: We are proud to have a wide range of social justice, mind/body/spirit, and arts + cultural events throughout the year in service to members of our community that may not be traditionally Episcopalian or religious. These include a weekly yoga class on the Labyrinth of the cathedral, which has attracted over 20,000 participants in over 20 years, support for emerging artists, the Community Preschool, and specific programs that support seniors, the unhoused population, and food insecurity. We also have a thriving youth group that includes enrichment programs for teens. This year they will be embarking on a social justice retreat to the Deep South to expand their awareness of America’s history with enslaved people and those that fought for equal rights for all Americans.
Christine: What is the theme for this Year’s Gala?
Clement: The theme for this year’s Gala is “The Future is Bright.” After two years of COVID, Grace is looking forward to celebrating our emergence by highlighting the work done to help our community recover and to look forward to the possibilities ahead of us. This year’s celebration e is more accessible than ever, with various support levels to invite participation, including a reduced pricing tier for pledging members of our congregation/ annual supporters of our community that may not be otherwise able to attend Carnivale.
Christine: What is the Carnivale experience this year?
Clement: Carnivale is a formal event that takes place in the cathedral itself and includes a sit-down dinner of vegetable-forward fare, entertainment led by the multi-talented DJ and musician/songwriter, The Chris Clouse Project, who will invite us to celebrate being together, and to imagine the possibilities for the future. With our theme “The Future is Bright,” we will be putting a spin on our dress code with “bright black tie.”
In addition, attendees will be able to experience the lightboxes of artist Matt Elson, who invites us to reimagine how we view ourselves and the world!
Of course, Carnivale is also a time to reflect on and celebrate the many ministries of Grace Cathedral. There will be opportunities to give and support the impact of Grace Cathedral through our online and live auctions, wine wall raffle, and Fund the Future paddle raise.
Christine: I hear there is more than one party…tell me what is the Late Night Revelry?
Clement: For those who a formal sit-down dinner with live auction is not quite their thing, a cathedral After-Party will be hosted following the formal dinner program and will feature the talents of Chris Clouse. This will be a more informal celebration starting at 9 pm, featuring live music, interactive art, a light painting photo booth, and an open bar.
Christine: Clement, this sounds like a fabulous opportunity to gather, celebrate and support Grace Cathedral! Thank you for your time and sharing all the details of this joyous occasion.
Learn even more about Carnivale and get tickets at gracecathedral.org/carnivale.
Spoken at 10/03/21 Choral Eucharist
I’m Christine Bensen – past chair of stewardship, a member of the Board of Trustees, and a big fan of Grace Cathedral. I stepped into this building for the first time in 1994. I was meant to meet a friend here. He overslept, but I was already here so I went to church.
That day changed my relationship with “organized” religion. Alan Jones inspired me, I cried on the steps, and congregation members invited me to coffee hour with the other recovering Romans. I was immediately a “member” of Grace. I was 25, and more of a C&E (Christmas and Easter) gal, but I immediately felt that Grace was my spiritual home. I moved away for a time, had a child, and moved back to San Francisco. It was not even a question that I would raise my son in the Episcopal faith, in this building, with this community. 10 years later he sings with our esteemed choir.
When I was asked to join the stewardship team three years ago, I was terrified! I thought, “You want me to ask people for money? ! How awkward. I am not qualified to do that!” Little did I know that stewardship would be one of the most rewarding committees on which I have ever served.
The fact is, Grace Cathedral is important – not only to me, but to so many others. When I called people to thank them for their pledges, they told me incredible stories – stories of love and pain and transformation – all tied to this space, this community, and our clergy. For some of them, this was their last refuge, their last hope, and we held them. Suddenly, the job I feared was a gift.
Why do I pledge?
I pledge because the existence of Grace Cathedral is essential.
I pledge because our clergy are spiritual leaders who are also kind, thought-provoking, and frankly, pretty cool people.
I pledge because the programs we provide to this community mean something.
I pledge because, at Grace, we stand up for people, issues, and for ourselves.
Your stewardship pledge provides the funds that we need to ensure that our clergy are employed and that our programs live on. Big and small alike, together we make it happen.
Your pledge makes Grace possible. We did it in 2020, and we can reach even greater heights in 2021. I invite you to join me and this entire congregation in committing to 100% Grace, Renewed in Faith.