People and Initiatives

Like San Francisco, Grace Cathedral has grown into an internationally-recognized center, a place of spiritual innovation and dialogue, hosting noted guests from near and far.


During the 1945 founding of the United Nations several delegates worshipped at the cathedral, and the UN50 Anniversary Service  in 1995 featured Secretary Boutros-Ghali, former Polish President Walesa and Archbishop Tutu, a frequent visitor. Dr. Martin Luther King drew perhaps the largest ever crowd for his 1965 visit and sermon. Other important visitors over the years have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair. The 1951 funeral of William Randolph Hearst at Grace Cathedral saw General Douglas McArthur and former President Herbert Hoover in attendance. Astronaut John Glenn and his family visited to see his window (Exploration) in 2011. The Forum, founded in 1995 by Dean Alan Jones, has hosted a great variety of guests; David Brower, Senator Nancy Pelosi, Leonard Nimoy, Ram Das, Justice Sandra O’Connor Garrison Keillor, and many others.  

The Artist in Residence program, founded in 2012 by the eighth dean the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, has welcomed esteemed artists Anna Deavere Smith, Anne Patterson, Bryant Terry, Elaine Buckholtz and Floor van de Velde to present their works to the cathedral community and San Francisco at-large. Anglican archbishops, Episcopal presiding bishops and even a Roman Catholic cardinal have visited Grace Cathedral.  Services in Chinese, Spanish, Dutch and Armenian have been held in the cathedral.

PeopleInitiatives_Bishop Pike, Dr. King, Abernathy

PeopleInitiatives_John Glenn

Grace Cathedral has also been the birthplace of several important initiatives that engage pressing issues of today. Controversial Bishop James Pike was a leader for civil rights and women in the church, as well as a cutting-edge theologian. In 1960 he hosted Dr. Eugene Carson Blake who proposed a Presbyterian-Episcopal church union. Grace Cathedral led the Episcopal Church in awareness and response to LGBT issues, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s, and dedicated an AIDS Chapel in 2000. In the winter of 1983 Canon William Barcus convinced Grace Cathedral to open its facilities to the homeless, the start of what became Episcopal Community Services, the leading church-based rehabilitation and housing organization in the city.  In 1995 Bishop William Swing launched the United Religions Initiative to promote world harmony through spiritual interfaith dialogue, now with branches in 85 countries. Cathedral Deacon Nina Pickerrell began the Bayview Mission in her home neighborhood in 2004 and it continues to help the less fortunate of San Francisco. In 2007 Rev. Will Scott began the Dinners with Grace program at nearby sro hotels. After suggestions by Canon Sally Bingham, environmental activist with Episcopal Power and Light, Grace Cathedral installed solar panels in 2008 to generate some of its own clean power.  The climate change problem is a high priority of current Bishop Marc Andrus.

Watch Dr. Martin Luther King deliver a historic sermon at Grace Cathedral.

For further information contact the cathedral archivist, Michael Lampen at

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