For years, Grace Cathedral has opened its doors to all people, providing not only a place of worship, but services and volunteer work to help benefit our neighbors. With the pandemic and shelter-in-place mandate, Grace Cathedral has had to pivot in the way we worship and serve our community. Thanks to technology and a willingness to learn, both on our end and the part of our congregation, Grace Cathedral’s online transition has been a successful offering of old and new.
Thankfully, with the help of technology like Zoom, many of Grace Cathedral’s offerings were able to move online, mostly uninterrupted. Despite not being able to gather in the Cathedral, our Sunday 11 a.m. Choral Eucharist continues through streaming on our website and Facebook, as does our Vesper Light, The Vine, Choral Evensong and Weekday Morning Prayer services. Bible Study, Book Study, Children, Youth and Family Ministry, the Education for Ministry, the Congregation Council, and the Deanery have all also moved online, meeting regularly and carrying on as best they can. Women in the Community continue to meet periodically, staying in touch and checking in with one another.
As for the cathedral’s senior community, we remain resilient while also acknowledging the emotional loss of being physically apart. Prioritizing the health and safety of our especially vulnerable community, we use both traditional and innovative ways to creatively connect. We immediately started making calls to each Senior with Grace in our records and established an email list for those connected to the internet. We’ve offered free, lovingly made face masks to our seniors (through St. Veronica’s Guild and Fill-A- Need). If someone is in need of community support (even groceries, etc.), we do our best to assist. We have a casual newsletter that includes lighthearted stories and cathedral updates in addition to useful information regarding available resources during the crisis. And for those so inclined, Senior Zoom Tuesdays offers a chance to meet virtually every second and fourth Tuesday for the duration of the crisis.
Though nothing can replace being able to conjoin physically, online ministry provides a sense of community during the pandemic.
Filling the Need
While many forms of worship were able to move rather seamlessly online, other services still require a physical component. Keeping in compliance with health and safety regulations, Grace Cathedral is able to continue its support of Bayview Mission, a Special Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of California, providing much-needed services, food and supplies to residents of the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhoods. In conjunction with Bayview Mission, Fill-a-Need continues on, making and distributing masks to the cathedral community and those in need. Since March 17, the Stitching Ministry has made and distributed 175 baby hats, 207 masks, 13 lap robes, 50 adult hats and scarves to the Homeless Prenatal Program, Bayview Mission, and the San Francisco Night Ministry, meeting on Zoom the first and third Sunday of every month.
The Garden Guild, though not organized and with no specific agenda, continues to weed, prune, replant and maintain the landscaping and gardens around the cathedral. And while we are not able to gather and cook together, Dinner with Grace contracted with a socially conscious caterer to prepare and deliver individually boxed meals to each SRO. The spirit of community thrives at Grace, despite the extra work that goes into these services in making them socially conscious and responsible.
Of course, some services are not able to transition online. The Visitors Center, for example, tours by The Cathedral Docents, the Carillion Ministry, the Healing Prayer Ministry, the Bread Bakers Guild, the Ushers Guild and the Altar Guild are all currently on hold while the cathedral doors remain closed, though members do continue to meet periodically online to retain a sense of community. While our volunteers are unable to meet with prisoners in San Francisco jails as part of our Jail Ministry, we are working with the sheriff’s department to continue sending books on behalf of prisoners. While we are eager to reopen our doors and bring back these ministries and guilds, our community’s health must remain our top priority.
Grace Cathedral thanks you for your help and understanding during these uncertain times. We have weathered this storm, and while it is not over yet, it is clear that we will get through this together. We cannot predict when we might begin to gather again for in-person worship, but any return to our pre-Covid custom will be gradual, and we’ll need to re-learn how to lead worship together. Meanwhile, our love for God and one another finds expression in live-streamed, Zoom-based, and other online services. When we do resume in-person worship, we’ll be delighted to welcome veteran and new volunteers in the many ministries that support our worship.