Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

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. 

Dear friends, 

What does joyful anticipation feel like in a post-pandemic world?

Something we anticipate each year in the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry is the Bishop’s Pageant, a cherished holiday tradition for many. Our excitement is heightened this year because we will offer our first in-person Pageant since 2019. Racks of costumes are being rolled out of storage, casting calls made for a multitude of angels, and a donkey prepared by its loving hander for its journey to Bethlehem (via the South Bay). 

At the same time, we are monitoring the high rate of respiratory illnesses in the Bay Area and the particular impact this has on the young and other vulnerable groups. This is shaping our planning for the Pageant. 

Some changes to the Pageant this year include asking all attendees to register in advance to attend and inviting participants and audience members to wear masks. Further adjustments, under the guidance of our Diocesan leadership, may be necessary. 

This introduces a note of caution into one of the most glorious displays of unbridled joy the cathedral offers. The excited correspondence I have had with families preparing to come to the pageant – in some cases, a pageant they have been attending for the past decade or longer – leaves me with no doubt that this day will still be the joyous event we are all anticipating. 

The last few years have demonstrated the great capacity of the Grace Cathedral community to experience profound joy in any circumstance, regardless of what unanticipated developments occur around us. Individually and as members of a great family, we may need to continue to remain vigilant this Advent season, to respond to unanticipated changes that lead to us masking where we would rather smile at each other, spending a day at home where we would prefer to be at our beloved cathedral. 

We can still anticipate the joy that awaits us this season. It is a joy we felt ripple around us during our service to mark the start of Advent last Sunday, embodied in the fragrant wreaths we wove and candles we lit. It is a joy that will wash over us during our beloved Advent Procession this Sunday, as well as the Advent Tea that will follow it, with its glorious cornucopia of sweets and opportunity to peruse the wares of our beloved Stitching Ministry. It is a joy we can anticipate eddying through the concertsservicesAdvent Sale, series on contemplative practices, and myriad other ways to experience this most special of seasons. 

Most of all, it is the joy unbounded we anticipate as we look towards Christmas. 

God is with us always, holding us in every joyful and challenging moment. Nothing can prevent the Advent of the Christ Child. This is the great Good News of Christmas we receive each year, the joyful promise that no other circumstance can diminish. 

Thank you for being part of the Grace family! 

Dear Friends, 

Last Sunday, the Grace Cathedral Youth Group served lunch with the GLIDE Foundation in the Tenderloin, working as part of a team of volunteers from across the city.  

After we walked back up the hill to the cathedral – and the youth had given me time to catch my breath – we reflected on what we had seen and felt. We shared our sorrow that many people in our city experience food insecurity. We also shared moments of grace we’d witnessed. One of us had seen someone give half their ration of food to another person who had missed out on the lunch service. We all were moved by the care and compassion GLIDE staff, volunteers, and lunch guests had shown each other. 

Witnessing a situation where suffering is present can be challenging. It is tempting to try to “fix” things or to just turn away. But staying present in a situation, observing it with love and an open mind, is central to Christian practice. It is how we remember that we are all members of God’s great, beloved family. 

This Sunday, Grace Cathedral will observe the Children’s Sabbath. This observance invites faith communities to contemplate the challenges children and families face. The Children’s Defense Fund, the organizer of the Children’s Sabbath, states that over ten million children in the US experience food insecurity. Such a statistic can paralyze us with negative emotions or make us cast about frantically for ways to “fix” this. A Sabbath invites us to be still, pray, and listen to the Spirit’s voice. This ancient, sacred practice can strengthen us in our social justice work, renewing our capacity to love and care for each other. 

The voice and vision of the young will be woven into our Children’s Sabbath. Youth will read scripture and the Prayers of the People, and children will be invited to create prayer ribbons. Our service leaflet will feature art pieces on the justice theme by law students at the University of San Francisco. I am grateful to the Rev. Timothy Seamans of the cathedral School for Boys, Dean Stephanie Carlos, and Heidi Ho of USF for their support of this initiative. I am also grateful to the Rev. Anna Rossi, the young people from the Grace congregation, and CSB for contributing to our Sabbath observance. 

The following Sunday, October 23, civil rights hero Dolores Huerta, the co-founder with César E. Chávez of United Farm Workers of America, will preach at the 11 am Choral Eucharist. Ms. Huerta’s ongoing advocacy for the rights of the working poor, women, and children has transformed the lives of countless people. Dolores Huerta’s remarkable career demonstrates to us all that change is possible and that seemingly immobile systems of inequality can be altered by individuals and communities acting with courage and compassion. 

Later this month, the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry will observe a different kind of event as we host the Edge of Halloween Treasure Hunt on October 30, from 2-4 pm. Halloween has a particular resonance for children. They know things that are scary and hard to understand are as much a part of life as hopeful and joyous things and that all these things can belong together. Our treasure hunt will invite children and families to go on a journey through the chambers and soaring halls of our great Gothic cathedral, a space that reflects the great mystery, the light, and shade, of life. We are excited to welcome children and families from across the city for this free, fun event.  

Thank you for being part of the Grace family! 

With gratitude,

Steph McNally 
Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry


Labor Day is said to mark the “unofficial end of summer.” I wonder what this expression evokes in you? 

As a teacher, the end of summer has always meant the return of students crashing like a wave through the door of a previously quiet classroom, transforming everything in their wake. 

As the Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, I enjoy surfing this wave weekly, gathering with our cathedral’s youngest congregants at 11 am each Sunday for worship, learning, and play. Our children have so much to teach us. They have an innate sense of the sanctity of nature. They know instinctively the truth of the psalm we hear this Sunday, that God’s creation is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14 NRSV). Our young people can teach us how to sit with this creation, immersing ourselves in the wonders of a shell, a strand of seaweed, and the grains in a handful of sand. 

The sensibility of a child, the capacity to love the environment for the miracle it is, maybe just be what we need to save the world. 
Families with children are invited to gather at Crissy Field for a morning prayer service at 11 am this Sunday, September 4. We will worship and enjoy food and fellowship with each other. Please email me with a map and further details! 

We gather outdoors to mark the beginning of Creationtide, a season that celebrates our divinely created world and calls for us to protect this fragile and threatened paradise. This season is observed throughout The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, traditionally culminating with the Feast of Saint Francis. At Grace Cathedral, we’ll hear its themes, especially in the people’s prayers, and extend the observance through October 9, the eve of Indigenous People’s Day. 

On Sunday, September 11, there will be two special opportunities for the congregation to gather. Our Congregation Town Hall Meeting will take place at 9:30 am. Then, after the 11 am Choral Eucharist, we will gather on the plaza for Congregation Sunday.
Our Grace Cathedral Youth Group will host a fundraiser for the Grace Cathedral Racial Justice Youth Pilgrimage to Alabama and Georgia in the summer of 2023. Jewelry, baked goods, and hand-made cards will be on sale, with all funds contributing towards youth participation in the pilgrimage. I am inspired by the desire of our youth to undertake this pilgrimage during their (often brief) summer break.  Our young people have an innate sense of fairness. They respond passionately when they can see something is unfair and refuse to accept that there are systems of racism too big or perpetual to be dismantled. I am so grateful to the cathedral for providing our youth with the opportunity to act on their desire for justice and change. I would be delighted to hear from you if a youth in your extended family or community would like to attend. 

I am also grateful for the opportunity I was given last week to take part in the Grace Cathedral mission to the border, a pilgrimage organized by the Rev. Dr. Greg Kimura, with the Rev. Canon Anna Rossi, our Content Marketing Manager, Alina Dennis, and members of our congregation in attendance. We visited schools and shelters supporting children and families awaiting resettlement in the U.S. I have shared my reflections on this transformational experience in this blog post, which features images captured by Alina Dennis. I pray we can continue to build relationships with this community and the organizations providing it with stability and hope. 

Special events coming up in the next few weeks include: 
  • Congregation Town Hall Meeting: Join us for our annual Town Hall on Sunday, September 11, at 9:30 am. Dean Malcolm Clemens Young will lead a discussion of the congregation survey results and provide updates on cathedral life.  
  • Congregation Sunday: After the 11 am Choral Eucharist on Sunday, September 11, join us on the plaza for one-on-one exchanges with ministry representatives. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about what ministries do and how you can get involved in them! 
  • Visitor Experience and Cultural Membership Photo Shoot: Volunteers of all ages are needed for a Grace Cathedral sightseeing visitor photo shoot on Wednesday, September 21, from 11 am – 1 pm! For more information, please email Julie Knight by September 18. 
  • Yoga for Change: This morning of gathering with good intentions to benefit The Community Preschool takes place on Saturday, September 24, at 10 am. Your participation will help support student financial aid, daily nutritious meals, and our dreams of opening a parent resource center. 

Thank you for being part of the family of Grace! 

Steph McNally 
Associate for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry 

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of being part of the Grace Cathedral mission to the border, led by the Rev. Dr. Greg Kimura.

Among the places we visited, one that stands out to me is Canyon Nest, a school for 3 to 10-year-olds in Tijuana created by PILAglobal.

To reach the school, we needed to walk some distance along a rocky track. Sleepy-eyed stray dogs watched us as we jumped back and forth across a foul-smelling stream. 

Before the teachers at the school could greet us, the space did. The courtyard, with its shade, warm colors, and art station, all spoke welcome.  

Inside, a beautifully arranged classroom awaited the children, its easily accessible shelves filled with crafts and toys waiting to be held, squeezed, and used to make magical creations. 

Costumes and props spilled out of baskets on the stage in the dramatic play area. 

Everywhere there were invitations, stated and implied, for jugar, for play. Every aspect of this school has been designed to build joy, encourage curiosity and reinforce how loved and valued they are to each child.   

This site of learning and joy is built adjacent to a shelter for 1700 people seeking asylum in the US. Many of the children who attend this school, and their families who have risked everything to bring them here, have living situations as precarious as the dwellings we saw built on the dusty slopes of the canyon. 

The lead teacher of the school, herself from Tijuana, shared how much planning goes into the school’s curriculum. Children at Canyon Nest differing levels of literacy; most have experienced trauma. The teachers work with constant care and thought, providing a meaningful learning experience to every child who comes to the school. 

And more and more children are coming.   

That day, I saw incredible teachers who could not be rewarded enough. The CEO of PILAglobal, who led our visit, shared that the organization prioritizes the funding of teachers and teaching assistants, many of whom are drawn from the community, over all other resources. I can’t stop thinking about these teachers. I suspect it is because I feel hope in reflecting on them. 

Photo Credit: Alina Dennis

Join us online for a very special Bishop’s Pageant at 11 am on Christmas Eve.

As a result of discernment by members of the Office of the Congregation, and at the direction of our Bishop, we have decided that, despite our earlier hopes to meet in person, this year’s Bishop’s Pageant will be held online only. 

We have made this decision out of an abundance of caution. It’s a decision informed by the arrival of the Omicron variant, and the uncertainties this brings.  

I suspect for many of you this will not come as a complete surprise, especially in a year that has asked us to pivot and shift so often that it sometimes feels like we are getting tied in knots. I know, however, that this news will come as a disappointment for many. 

Many of us, including many children and families, make an annual pilgrimage to our Cathedral for the Bishop’s Pageant. Many others volunteer their time and gifts, serving as dressers, ushers and every kind of supporter. I am honored to be connected to such a hallowed tradition. 

The good news that I want to share with you is that I believe the Bishop’s Pageant we will offer online at 11am on Christmas Eve, while different, will capture the beauty and spirit of this event. I believe this after seeing the care and joy that many people have brought to the making of it.  

I am delighted to share some behind-the-scenes images from the filming of this year’s Bishop’s Pageant in this blog. I hope these convey something of the heart and soul many have poured into the creation of this year’s Pageant, and what a wonderful event it will be.  

I have spent the most magical few days watching the Pageant being filmed.  

I have had the great privilege of witnessing our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus, tell, with warmth and profundity, the Nativity story, leading us through the Cathedral and along the road to Bethlehem.  

I have watched a large number of children, from our congregation, the Cathedral School for Boys and the Community Preschool, enact, respond to and gaze with awe and wonder upon this story. 

My sincere gratitude goes to the many that have made this possible, and helped us move, in a span of days, from planning for an in-person Pageant to an online, prerecorded event. First and foremost, I must thank our Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus, for his leadership and championship of the Pageant. Thank you to our dean, the Very Rev. Malcolm Clemens Young, for his great support and wonderful welcome. Thanks also must go our remarkable production and music teams at Grace Cathedral, to the Rev. Mary Carter Greene and the Rev. Anna Rossi for their work on our Pageant script, and to our Communications team for helping us continue to communicate our news! Special thanks to Father Timothy Seamans from the Cathedral School for Boys, and to our many Grace parents, who moved heaven and earth to help us fill our Pageant with shepherds, magi and angels. And a very special thanks to all children who participated!

I can also share that we will be offering a live Nativity Scene, complete with animals, on the plaza at 11 am on Christmas Eve. Children will have the opportunity to come in costume, or to dress in a costume, and participate in our Nativity scene. We would love to see you there.  

Making the Pageant reminded me, as I am often reminded, of the power of seeing the world as a child. There were many times during filming when I was aware I was preoccupied with a multitude of different concerns.

What repeatedly brought me back were the moments of divine beauty and grace I witnessed involving our children: our young Mary and Joseph gathering around “their” newborn baby, eager to meet and know this beautiful child; our Magi carefully cradling their gifts as they processed towards the Holy Family; the faces of our angels lit up with broad smiles as they called out greetings of peace and joy. What I saw that day reminded me of the capacity of children to immerse themselves in the moment, to find sources of wonder and joy in any circumstance. 

I believe this Christmas, our children will continue to find the joy, and the light, to see the wonder in moments that we may find difficult. I have seen our families go through so much, and endure so much, to ensure their children continue to experience joy and wonder.  

I know that, together, we will still be able to ensure this is a very special Christmas for our children, and for all of us. As I was reminded through the making of this Pageant, one of the great mysteries at the heart of our faith is that of a baby, a “poor king” born in difficult circumstances and times, whose birth brought light to the world. This light remains with us always, present always, even in times when it is difficult to see. We can see it in the beauty of every newborn baby, and reflected in the faces of all of God’s children.

Thank you for the blessing of your families, and for being part of the family of Grace,

Steph McNally
Associate for Children, Youth and Family Ministry