Art by artist Lucy Shin
I frequently hear from members of our congregation how they miss the physical presence of children in Grace Cathedral. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to connect and build community with our young people through a program of online activities and outdoor gatherings. More recently, our precious young people have been returning to services at Grace. This wonderful development is due in large part to the undertaking of our community to create a safe environment for those who can’t yet be vaccinated, by ensuring everyone who is twelve or older shows proof of vaccination before entering. Still, I know we have missed the presence of children as it was pre-pandemic. We miss the ways in which our children traveled through their cathedral, gathering on the indoor labyrinth, pouring down the central aisle, contemplating and exploring the great spaces and secret nooks of our wondrous Grace.
This is why I am looking forward to Halloween this year, and the opportunities it will provide us to welcome and celebrate our children.
We are holding two events for the children and families of our community. In the afternoon of Sunday, October 31, we will welcome children and families to our cathedral for a treasure hunt. Families will journey through the Nave, solving puzzles and participating in Halloween games, before they are rewarded with treats!
For those of you for whom the thought of Halloween games inside our cathedral gives pause, I can reassure you part of our brief was that this event be free of ooze, slime and all things gooey. We have designed an event that involves almost no touching of anything. Apart from seeking to preserve the floors and walls of our cathedral, we want to create an event that young children and their families will be able to enjoy safely.
The architecture of the cathedral itself has been invaluable in creating such an event. Our Gothic cathedral is an inherently dramatic space that relies on the interplay of light and dark to create awe. To enter it is to go on a journey, one that takes us from the dim recess of the Narthex to the dazzling High Altar and back again. We are surrounded by memento mori, signs of our mortality and of the spirits that live for eternity. There are hidden chambers and grand spaces that make us look up at the light. Our indoor labyrinth invites us to journey to its mystical core and back again.
Reflecting on our cathedral’s design has given me fresh insight into the original celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day, and how these two days must have been so intrinsically linked in people’s minds. The celebration of Halloween, and all the fear and fun of it, must have been enhanced by the promise the night would pass, that dawn would rise on a holy day.
We have woven the narrative of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day into our treasure hunt. Simultaneously, we have sought to design an event that will appeal to the children and families of our community that come from other faiths, traditions or are not practicing a particular tradition. We are specifically inviting our families in The Community Preschool and the Cathedral School for Boys, as well as families in Nob Hill, Chinatown and the Tenderloin. I hope there will be opportunities for us to discuss with those attending different traditions that acknowledge and celebrate spirits and the souls of the dead.
I am excited by the thought that we will be welcoming many children for the first time to the cathedral. The wonder with which I have seen children respond to our cathedral teaches me to look at it with fresh eyes and rejoice in its wonders. Among all the searching and the spooky fun we intend for the event, I also anticipate it will be a day of joy, when the Nave again reverberates with the sounds of children.
In the evening, we will offer a further gift to our community from the youth of Grace. A number of our gifted young members of Grace Cathedral are creating pieces of art inspired by Halloween and other traditions. These pieces of art will be made into a slideshow that will be projected onto the facade of Grace Cathedral from 7 pm. The slideshow will adorn the path of trick-and-treaters making their way through Nob Hill. We will be present to welcome and provide treats to those who come by. I am thankful to our young people who have volunteered to create art for this special slideshow. It will be another way in which we can celebrate the contributions of our young people to Grace, while also demonstrating how these wonderful members of our congregation have been and continue to be present with us throughout.
Please do email me if you have any questions about this event.
Proof of full vaccination is required, except for children under 12. Masks must be worn at all times. Please do not attend if you are not feeling well, have COVID-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with anyone who is COVID-19+.