Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

You can contribute to our backpack drive through our Amazon Registry here.

Each year, we are overwhelmed by the generosity with which our community at Grace Cathedral, led by the Congregation Council, responds to our drive for backpacks and school supplies for Bayview Mission. Through this generosity, we have been able to ensure many children and their families can enter a school year with the equipment and confidence they need to flourish. 

This drive removes a source of financial stress from families struggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities on earth. “It is easy to overlook families who cannot purchase nice backpacks loaded with school supplies,” the Ven. Canon Nina Pickerrell, Executive Director of Bayview Mission, has remarked. Our drive allows us to demonstrate to the families of Nina’s ministry we see them and carry them in our hearts. 

Beyond easing a financial need, our drive is designed to contribute to the emotional flourishing of our precious young people. The difference that starting a school year with the necessary materials makes to a child’s confidence and sense of belonging is profound. Each backpack we send to Bayview Mission has a personal note for the child who will receive it. We have heard from Canon Pickerrell that this hand-written note is often part of the gift that is received with the most joy and wonder. 

This year, we are also writing cards for youth in foster care served by Braid Mission. Braid Mission’s Cards of Hope program ensures that youth who may otherwise never receive a birthday card or note of encouragement know that they are loved and cared for. We are excited to be partnering with this ministry of our church. Braid Mission will be giving a special presentation on their work, including Cards of Hope, on July 21 after the 11 am Eucharist, sharing their perspectives on ways to support and encourage young people facing challenges. 

This drive is an important source of giving. It also is an initiative that gives back to the giver, allowing us to participate in something that will have an impact on others. As you can see from the images, there is joy to be had in this drive! There are many ways in which you can be part of this joy: 

Make a contribution: Please visit our Registry Page to make a donation or purchase items. We are inviting congregants this year to consider making a donation to a bulk purchase fund. This will allow us to reduce the amount of packaging and deliveries we receive; through this eco-friendly approach, we are caring for creation as well as each other!  

Write cards: Please email Steph McNally if you would like to write some cards. 

Help us pack and deliver the backpacks: We would love your help packing our backpacks on August 4, after the 11 a.m. service! 

Thank you for being part of the Grace Cathedral community, and for all the ways you bring grace to the world! 

Dear Friends,

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

(Acts 2:1-2)

Hearing the account of Pentecost read in the church is a transformative experience. The power of the text sweeps us up and carries us to the moment when and where the church began. We find ourselves standing with the astonished and joyful crowd gathered in Jerusalem to hear Peter speak prophetic words of salvation, as the Spirit weaves us together into a single community of witnesses.

Pentecost reveals a divine vision of the church as a diverse and unified community. Peter, speaking the words of the prophet Joel, testifies to the authority of all, young and old, male and female, disenfranchised and empowered, to bear witness. The members of the crowd he is preaching to speak different languages and come from many different places. The miracle is that all can see and understand each other as never before. As Lisa Sharon Harper notes in The Very Good Gospel, “the power of God (has) made it possible for unity in the midst of diversity.”

When we gather in fellowship, the miraculous can happen. We can greet one another as beloved children of God, drawing strength from each other’s perspectives and gifts.

Through our life together at Grace Cathedral, we are given many opportunities to build community and encourage each other.

This Sunday, at the 11 am Choral Eucharist, we can celebrate with families whose children will be baptized into our community. We will offer our prayers and renew our baptismal vows as the Holy Spirit unites us in mystical and life-giving communion.

After the 11 am service, all are invited to an open house in the library hosted by the Education for Ministry (EfM). This is a great chance to learn more about this wonderful ministry, including the rich texts that participants read together. The book for this year’s EfM summer seriesWhy the Bible Began, explores how deeply divided groups can become one community, speaking again to the power of faith and fellowship.

Please note that the Bay to Breakers community will also be gathering this Sunday for their annual run, and that you may want to plan your journey accordingly! The only north-south crossover points along the route are at the Embarcadero and Howard Street in SOMA and Crossover Drive in Golden Gate Park. Information about street closures and Muni service changes can be found here

Wherever you find yourself this weekend, may you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and the joy of being part of our community of witnesses.

With gratitude,

Steph McNally
Formation Programs Manager for Children, Youth, Families, and Adults

Dear Friends,

What are the calendars that shape our lives?

The long-awaited season of spring has finally come. For many high school seniors, this time is significant for another reason: letters from the colleges they have applied to will arrive in the next couple of weeks. 

Waiting for news to come can be difficult. I am sure we can all remember when we waited so long for an important letter or email to arrive that it felt like we would be waiting forever. Now is a time we can pray for seniors and their families who are going through this experience. We can pray that the news, when it comes, will bring much-deserved relief and joy. We also can pray with love and compassion, for those for whom the news may bring disappointment.

Applying for college is an all-consuming process that asks a great deal of young people and their families, academically and emotionally. This process may inadvertently lead some young people to see their future happiness and even their worth as linked to admission to a certain college. Letters with disappointing news can cause sorrow and other painful emotions that take time to work through.

Now is a time we can reach out to families we know are due to receive this or another kind of result, including the many in San Francisco who learned this week what elementary, middle, or high school their child will attend. We can also reflect on how we can continue demonstrating to young people how loved, valued, and remarkable they are. We are all beloved as miraculous children of God. It is so important for our precious young people to hear and know this now and in every season of their lives. 

Our time of waiting and preparing through Lent has led us, finally, to Holy Week. We will gather this Sunday at 11 am for the Palm Sunday Eucharist, a service that commemorates both the triumphal procession and the passion of Jesus. Before the service, you are invited to participate in palm cross making, which will take place from 9:30 am in the cathedral. The crosses we make will be distributed and can be kept until the Sunday prior to Lent, when they can be brought back to the cathedral to be made into ashes for Ash Wednesday. Like so many in our faith, this process connects us to our church’s calendar and its cycles of preparation and renewal. It helps us contemplate the mystery and comfort of the seasons that shape our faith and lives.

What a privilege it is to live and walk this great journey of anticipation, courage, and love with you.

Steph McNally 
Formation Programs Manager for Children, Youth, Families, and Adult

Dear friends, 

How do our relationships with each other shape our relationship with God? 

Our Choral Evensong last week celebrated the life and work of Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt shared in her sermon that this was made possible by both Li Tim-Oi’s faith and courage and the faith and courage of those who supported her, from the rector and congregants at her church who saw a priest in their midst to the bishop who broke with tradition to ordain her to the priesthood.  

“A call is personal, but not solitary,” the Rev. Dr. Nesbitt observed. “Our calls are linked to others.” 

We are all called to draw closer to God. We experience this call in different ways, each deeply personal. However, we don’t need to undertake this journey alone. Our church teaches that Christian formation is “a lifelong process of growing in relationship with God, self, others, and all creation.” The work of knowing God is not a solitary undertaking but a journey to be shared. 

Grace Cathedral has several formation opportunities planned for 2024. 

This Lenten season, adults and youth discerning calls to baptism, confirmation, and reception will be undertaking preparation classes hosted at Grace. Together, participants will listen for the voice of the Spirit in Scripture, liturgy, and the actions of our church’s prophetic leaders, those who, like Florence Li Tim-Oi, help us understand God’s dream of the beloved community. As a graduate of the adult class of 2018, I can attest that powerful formation will take place through participants sharing their stories, beliefs, doubts, questions, and epiphanies with each other. 

In a time when we constantly hear about the decline of the church, it is wonderful to share that we are anticipating one of the largest adult cohorts in this class for a long time. This reflects the work of the many ordained and lay leaders who have contributed to this series, including current lay leaders Roberta Sautter and Robert Ward. It also reflects how our desire to be in a relationship with God is mirrored by a desire to be in a relationship with others.  

Grace Cathedral’s class for adults preparing for baptism, confirmation, or reception begins on Sunday, February 18, and all who feel called are warmly invited to register online.

Grace’s youth confirmation class begins on Sunday, February 25, and parents of those interested are invited to email me

As God’s people, we are all invited to a life of “continuous learning,” as the Episcopal Church’s “Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation” suggests. There are many ways to undertake this journey of learning at Grace.  

Upcoming opportunities include the Rev. Dr. Greg Kimura’s series on Buddhism and its relationship to Christianity on Sunday, February 4 and 18, and Joanne and Richard Compean’s book study of “Together” by Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, on Sunday, February 11 and 18. 

The 4 pm Book Study on Zoom begins its spring series with a study of Barbara Brown Taylor’s “The Luminous Web” on Sunday, February 11, while the Thursday Morning Bible Study continues its journey through the Gospel of Mark.

We will continue to update our Classes for Adults page with formation opportunities throughout the year. We are so grateful for all that you bring to our shared journey! 

With gratitude, 
Steph 

Steph McNally 
Formation Programs Manager for Children, Youth, Families, and Adult
stephm@gracecathedral.org 

Children can help us remember, and re-connect with, the joy at the heart of something. This is especially the case with the holiday season. Children respond to this season with a joy that teaches us all to be joyous and an excitement that reminds us of the great hope of this time. 

The love children have for the holidays is a sacred and beautiful thing. Nurturing this hope, and providing a joyous holiday experience for children, can be the source of stress for many families. This is especially the case for families experiencing financial and housing insecurity, where parents and caregivers have to make careful financial choices every day. 

The Office of the Congregation, the Congregation Council, and Women in Community are working with the Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) to celebrate and support families this holiday season. In December, we will be welcoming a number of families who participate in HPP programs to a holiday party at Grace. This will be the first in-person holiday gathering the HPP has held for families since 2019, and we are delighted and honored to support this important act of re-gathering.  

At this party, taking place on a date near the Feast of Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick will present gifts of pajamas and books.  

If you would like to contribute to this gift-giving, please visit our Amazon wishlist

We are collecting until Sunday, December 3. We appreciate your interest and contribution in supporting the preschool this holiday season!

We also would welcome offerings of baked goods, as well as volunteers to help wrap the gifts and ready the room for the festivities! Please do contact Steph McNally with any questions. 

We would gratefully appreciate your support in this celebration for families whose courage and strength so richly deserve to be celebrated. 

This is a truly “grace-filled” initiative: we are grateful to Joanne Compean and members of Women in Community, as well as members of the Council’s Social Justice Subcommittee, for their partnership.  

It is a gift to a member of a community where congregants practice welcome to families and all who come to Grace, and embody the joyful hope of this season. In a time where we make room in our hearts and minds for the family seeking shelter, I give thanks to the great and loving family of Grace. 

Dear friends 

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, 

need not be lived again.” 

– Maya Angelou, ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ 

These words are written on the side of the Legacy Museum, the first site our youth group visited on their Racial Justice pilgrimage, and became the defining mantra of our journey.  

The Legacy Museum and other sites we visited during our week-long journey presented many wrenching truths about this country’s history of racism and racial injustice. 

Our group of youth and adults, traveling from Grace Cathedral, were called repeatedly to engage with this history and its modern legacy, to try to comprehend images of lynchings, footage of mobs attacking students at lunch counters, modern-day photos of incarcerated children too small to fit into the prison jumpsuits swaddled about them like blankets. 

Our youth group, on every occasion, responded to the challenge of facing history with the courage Maya Angelou calls on us all to summon. They sat quietly and listened when the moment required them simply to listen, to hear the truths of others. Other times they asked question after question, undaunted in their desire to understand and know what they could do to stop such histories from being lived again. Their courage and determination gave their adult chaperones the courage to keep going, to continue through this troubled history that defines our present. 

We sensed we were not alone in this journey. Many guides and angels welcomed us. These guides pointed to the great courage of those who fought against near-impossible odds to change the lives of others, from the enslaved people who built the First African Baptist Church in Savannah at nighttime to the many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement immortalized in the mural at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

We found ourselves in constant communion with the souls and saints who changed the world. And everywhere, everything we saw pointed us to God, through whom all things are possible, and all wrongs are eventually righted.

Our youth group made many friends and had many guardians and advocates. Special thanks must be given to our remarkable adult chaperones, Grace Cathedral staff members Alina Dennis and Dan Chiapelone. Their witness, courage, and care profoundly shaped our journey and the outlook of our youth.  

Our youth group shared this journey with each other. They sang and prayed together, laughed in joyful moments, and sat close together when history presented them with a particularly wrenching truth, posed a question about humanity that only the Spirit can answer. They served as great ambassadors to our cathedral and their generation. 

I saw, to my great joy, how our young people’s constancy, grace, and openness had such an effect on many that we met. Last Sunday, we had the opportunity to worship at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Savannah.  

Each member of our youth group served in some capacity during the service.  

The clergy and many congregants shared afterward how moved they had been to worship with our youth group. Thank the Rev. David Wantland and Ministry Coordinator for Children and Families Betsey Bass for welcoming us. 

I am overjoyed to share with you that the youth group of Grace Cathedral has fulfilled the commission given to them, undertaking this pilgrimage with grace, compassion, and courage. I know they would be delighted to share their experiences and reflections with you, and I invite you to speak with them when you see them! We also look forward to sharing further images and footage at Congregation Sunday, September 10, following the 11 am Choral Eucharist. 

With gratitude, 

Steph McNally 
Formation Programs Manager for Children, Youth, Families, and Adults 

Dear Friends,

As a child, I spent much time at my neighbors’ homes. I was not always an invited guest. Like many Australians (and Americans), I grew up in a suburb of a mid-sized town on a street that offered a wealth of front yards ripe for exploration. These gardens were my playgrounds. I rummaged in these magical places for bugs, looked hopefully in birdbaths for a glimpse of a mythical bunyip, and (during a Nancy Drew phase) foraged for evidence of crimes needing solving. 

I don’t remember meeting my neighbors that often, except when something (usually me) got stuck up a tree. Looking back now, I realize how much I flourished through the care of my unseen neighbors, the invisible angels whose patience and quiet watchfulness enriched my childhood so greatly. 

Many of us who have moved to the Bay Area from a suburb or smaller town yearns to hear the happy shouts of kids walking home from school or playing driveway sports in the evening. Those of us in high-rise apartments and condos can feel like we are dislocated from the community where we live, removed from the experience of the “neighborhood” that shaped our childhoods. 

There are still many ways we can be good neighbors to each other. 

Our Grace Cathedral 2023 Backpack Drive is an invitation for us to show our care and support for the families of the great neighborhood of San Francisco. We seek to collect backpacks and school supplies for 115 children, with a personalized card to accompany each package. This drive will remove one source of pressure on families seeking to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities on earth. It’s a chance to let our strong and remarkable families know that we are grateful for all they do to raise the next generation of San Franciscans.Through supporting this drive, we can be the “invisible angels” of the khat we had in our childhood, whose care helped us flourish and thrive. 

This drive has been designed in partnership with two organizations that support the flourishing of our rich and diverse communities in San Francisco: The Community Preschool and Bayview Mission. It has also been shaped by the involvement of the Congregation Council, whose work is instrumental in making Grace an enriching and nurturing spiritual home for so many. Our city will remain loving and thriving as long as organizations like these are with us! 

You can donate items to our drive through our Amazon Wishlist. Just to let you know, all contributions are asked for by August 7. I also invite you to learn more about the drive and card writing activities through this wonderful blog post by Eva Woo Slavitt.Eva and her team are also angels and sources of invaluable support to this initiative! 

Steph McNally 

Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

(Acts 2:1)

Dear friends,

Recently, I met up with a former student of mine from Australia who was in town for the day. (They were doing the thing Australians in their twenties tend to do and traveling the globe). When I asked them what they most wanted to do in San Francisco, they replied without hesitation, “See as many rainbow flags as possible.” 

We went immediately to the Castro. A broad smile broke across their face as they saw the enormous flag on the corner of Market and Castro Streets. Their smile grew even wider as we traveled down Castro Street to the famed Rainbow Crossing. There was a new bounce in their step as they crossed this landmark. 

I felt so proud that I could be there with my student as they experienced this place that celebrated them. 

On Sunday, June 4, at 6 pm, we are all invited to gather for Grace Cathedral’s Pride Mass 2023. Some may assume that this service is offered primarily to those in our community who identify as LGBTQIA+. It is, however, also a wonderful opportunity for all who would be allies to gather with pride and love. 

Like the city it serves, Grace Cathedral has led the way in creating safe and sacred spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community, from creating the AIDS Interfaith Chapel to innovative services like The Vine. The faithful allyship of cathedral leadership, and that of the Episcopal Church, has helped spread a message of love and inclusion that has resonated across the nation. 

Now, in a year when a record number of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills are being introduced in the US, we are called to continue in the sacred tradition of allyship that has defined our faith. 

On June 4, at 6 pm, we are all invited to gather in one place for Pride Mass 2023. We will celebrate a liturgy led by our Canon Pastor, the Rev. Mary Carter Greene, lift our voices to sing with the glorious GLIDE Ensemble and open our hearts to receive the prophetic words of acclaimed preacher Marvin K. White.  

Pride Mass is an invitation to worship in communion with each other and the souls and saints whose names are written in the Interfaith Chapel and on our hearts. It is a chance for us to be together in one place, living into God’s dream for the world and the church. 

This Sunday, May 28, is the Day of Pentecost, one of the principal feasts of the church year. On this day, we hear of the spirit descending on the Apostles who have gathered in one place, enlivening them to begin their work of building the church. Those of us present at the cathedral this Sunday will have the opportunity to be inspired by the lifelong activism of the Rev. Norman Fong, who will be in conversation with the Rev. Dr. Greg Kimura at The Forum and preach at the 11 am Festal Eucharist honoring AAPI Heritage Month. A number of us will be gathered at the beautiful Bishop’s Ranch for our annual Congregation Retreat, where we also will be listening for the voice of the spirit. 

I trust that wherever you are this Pentecost, you feel joy, peace, and the enlivening presence of the spirit! 

With gratitude 
Steph McNally 
Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry 

Dear friends,

The New York Times has been reporting on the “first major spiritual revival of the twenty-first century.” In the past few weeks, over 50,000 people have made a pilgrimage to Asbury College, a “tiny” non-denominational college in Kentucky. Many of the pilgrims are under 25, members of “the least religious generation in memory.”  

What has got all these college students making a religious pilgrimage? 

These young people are from a generation marked by unprecedented anxiety and suicide ideation. Their prayers at the revival have been for healing from mental health issues. Asbury College’s president suggests that in this time of disillusionment, the pilgrims are “raising their gaze to higher things.” 

Last week, as the pilgrims kept watch in Asbury, many of us began our pilgrimage into Lent by attending an Ash Wednesday service at the cathedral. As the Dean observed in his powerful sermon, Ash Wednesday can bring us deep peace, even as we remember our mortality. We pray together and connect with love through the “intimate” ritual of imposing and receiving ashes.  

In this way, Ash Wednesday mirrors a revival, where something is spiritually revived in us, allowing us to raise our gaze to higher things. 

Fellow travelers in the Grace Cathedral community walk the Lenten path to the divine together. Let’s do so with open minds and hearts, striving to hear and honor the truth of each other’s journeys. 

Our youth group is journeying through Lent with a series of gatherings on the theme of “rest, reset and reconnect for Lent.” In our gatherings, we share ways we recharge and go to our “peaceful place,” from crafting and walking to playing music. We are being led by our youth minister Victoria Linner, a seasoned veteran of lay ministry at Grace while still only a recent college graduate. 

Victoria leads guided tours as a docent, sings with the Cathedral Singers, and stitches up a storm in the Stitching Ministry. Her activities reflect Grace’s many opportunities to gather and revive our spirits through music, the arts, and journeys into inspiring spaces. 

Lent is a time to consider what our souls need to revive and what ministries or practices can restore us. Through Lent, as through the year, Grace offers many ways for us to heal in mind, body, and spirit and connect to the divine through music and art

I trust we all continue to have a healing and reviving journey through Lent as we journey towards the promise of new life. 

With gratitude, 

Steph McNally  
Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry 

Dear friends,

“People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:15

Is there a young person in your life who has lost their “light”? If so, you are not alone. The US is experiencing a “devastating” youth mental health crisis. 

During a discussion at The Vine last week on the Beatitudes, a powerful observation was made that many young people are depressed, or “poor in spirit.” The pandemic and other crises have led to our youth experiencing mental health challenges we don’t fully understand but to which we want to respond. 

The recent Pew Research survey Parenting in America Today reports the number one concern parents of children under 18 have for their child is that they will struggle with anxiety or depression. Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in youth aged 12 to 18. Suicide is the second highest cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds. 

The Pew survey found that only a third of parents felt it was very important for their children to share their religious beliefs. Religious institutions are no longer widely seen as places that can support and nurture the young. We are called to remove our lights from under the metaphorical bushel and place them on lampstands. We can do more to serve our youth. 

Many resources exist that can help us learn how to support young people in crisis. The excellent training I attended last fall in Youth Mental Health First Aid, offered by Jewish Learning Works and hosted by Congregation Sherith Israel, focused on how we can support youth in faith-based settings. There were challenging moments in the training, such as role-plays where we practiced strategies for asking a young person if they were thinking of harming themselves. I had a strong sense that God was present in the room with us, and that we were engaged in sacred work that would help us support our beloved young people and save lives.  

We are offering Youth Mental Health First Aid training on March 21 and 28, from 6 to 9 pm, for interested adults in our congregation. Please email me to register your interest.

Our Dean, the Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, spoke powerfully at our Annual Meeting last Sunday about the core mission of Grace Cathedral as a place of welcome for all, and how essential this is for those experiencing mental health challenges. The Dean suggested reports of declining church attendance should not detract from the truth that human beings are spiritual beings, and we are all longing for the transcendent. We are called to let this transcendent light shine for our young. We also need to understand how our young people experience the world, what burns in their hearts and minds and sometimes renders them “poor in spirit”. Through such a dialogue, we can make our community even more welcoming, and our earthly spiritual home more reflective of the one we joyously await in Heaven.

Jesus said of the poor in spirit that the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. It is possible that our young can bring us closer to this kingdom, help us glimpse, and bring about on the earth, a place where all know peace and unconditional love. 

With gratitude,

Steph McNally 
Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry 

Last weekend, youth from across the Bay Area met with our youth group for a transformative teach-in and art workshop about the Thirteenth Amendment and the national movement to abolish forced labor in prisons. 

Last weekend, youth from across the Bay Area met with our youth group for a transformative teach-in and art workshop about the Thirteenth Amendment and the national movement to abolish forced labor in prisons. 

With artists Akeil Robertson-Jowers, and Phoebe Bachman of Mural Arts, we went on a challenging but necessary journey through the history of racism and oppression in the US, following the throughline that runs from slavery to the current system of involuntary servitude in prisons. This system of involuntary servitude is made possible by an “exception” clause in the Thirteenth Amendment that means those incarcerated can be forced to work without compensation. 

We were given many examples of how demeaning and punitive this work can be. In Louisiana State Penitentiary, we learned, incarcerated people are currently being made to pick cotton in the same fields where enslaved people once picked cotton. Closer to home, fire fighters in California risk their lives for two to five dollars a day during fire season.  Most of the people working in prisons will graduate with precious little to show, in terms of either savings or credentials that can help them gain other work. 

These revelations led to a powerful discussion about how we can all be agents for change. We learned about the national End the Exception movement that is calling for an end to involuntary servitude. We also heard about the role of leaders in the Episcopal Church, including our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, and other members of the Free at Last Coalition. 

Moved and inspired, we created a powerful piece of art calling for the end of slavery. This piece was blessed at our 6 pm Choral Eucharist, and will be on display permanently in the crypt of Grace.

We also made discoveries and connections that will stay with us forever. 

It was a privilege and honor to be part of this experience. I am so grateful to the youth and youth group leaders who participated from St. Mary’s the Virgin and St. James’ Episcopal churches, as well as congregants Ciara Bedingfield and Jodie Forve, who took these images.  

Thanks also go to Alma Robinson, Executive Director of California Lawyers for the Arts, and Amy Quirk of the Quirk Family Foundation for making this event possible. 

Images by Jodie Forvé 

Dear friends,

I wonder if you will be making any New Year’s resolutions.

Many of us have become increasingly cynical about making resolutions. Each passing year demonstrates how fragile resolve can be and how easily it breaks in the light of the new day. 

In my twenties, I made laundry lists of resolutions on New Year’s Eve. Some of these resolutions were frivolous, focused on matters such as finding a way to fit into the stovepipe Wrangler jeans than in fashion. The more earnest resolutions I offered to the universe, as I stood waiting for the town hall clock to chime midnight, were that I would try to make a difference in the world, to be more loving with those I loved, and to gain inner peace. I sense most of those gathered offered similar intentions to the starry sky and that this is what gave, and continues to give, each new year celebration around the world its energy and optimism. 

Resolutions are prayers. They are expressions of our deepest longings for transformation and peace. While we may become less comfortable voicing these longings, they continue to burn undiminished within our souls. 

During the Bishop’s Pageant on Christmas Eve, children offered prayers that gave voice to all our prayers: for belonging and community, for the welfare of those in our care, for joy for the living and peace for those who have died. One of the most moving things was the faith with which I heard these prayers spoken, the confidence that, in the speaking of these petitions, they would be heard. There was no apologetic tone, no equivocation of the kind with which we as adults often offer our weary prayers, our sheepish hopes.  

I wonder if a resolution for the new year can be to remember the faith with which we made our resolutions, to allow ourselves to shrug off the protective cloak of cynicism we sometimes wrap around ourselves, and give voice anew to our hopes for peace and transformation. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. weekend presents us with an immediate opportunity to renew our engagement in justice. On Sunday, January 15, Grace Cathedral will host an Interfaith Evensong and forum honoring the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth are invited to participate in a teach-in and art workshop about the national movement to end slavery for good. Artwork produced will be presented at our 6 pm service and then placed on permanent display at Grace, voicing the hope of many for a more just world through this reform. Spaces are limited, and we invite attendees to RSVP by email as soon as possible.  

This Sunday, the first day of the New Year, we will hear the blessing of God to us all:  

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26). 

God knows and loves our desire for belonging, for grace, for peace. May we all feel this constant love as we enter the New Year and find new strength to bring the light of this love to the world.