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    A Place at Grace

    Historic San Francisco Cathedral Lives Its Motto of ‘Grace for All’–

    By Lynn Aylward–

    Cathedrals are not exactly cutting-edge, and many people are giving organized religion a miss, especially in free-thinking San Francisco. So, with its soaring gothic architecture, long local legacy dating from the Gold Rush and beautiful traditional services, you might make the mistake of putting Grace Cathedral in the “nice place to visit at Christmas but I wouldn’t want to live there” category.

    Until you go to Nob Hill on a Tuesday night and see 700 people of all ages doing yoga right in the cathedral, with colorful mats covering every inch of floor space, including the altar. Or join hundreds of others to groove to house music or hear popular NYC spoken word poet Sarah Kay, the cathedral’s 2017 Artist in Residence, declaim about urban angst and modern love.

    Grace prioritizes its identity as San Francisco’s house of prayer for all people by meeting people wherever they are on their spiritual path, including if they are not on one.

    “We’re open-minded and innovative,” Katherine Thompson, the cathedral’s Canon Director of Development, informs the San Francisco Bay Times. “Grace is a spiritual crossroads in one of the world’s most dynamic and beautiful cities. It’s a landmark and a visitor destination for tens of thousands of people from all over the world every year, but also the church home for about 500 households that include families and singles, children and seniors, and a diversity of ethnicities, races and sexual orientations.”

    “We have two schools,” she adds, “and we put on scores of cultural events: concerts, dance, art exhibits, a conversation series and more. We offer beautiful traditional worship services every day of the week, but we also have yoga and a contemporary service and community called The Vine.”

    Visitors come to see the cathedral’s striking architecture and art, including Jacob’s Dream, a work by Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell, the latter being the world-famous light artist who lives in Potrero Hill and whose work will soon permanently embellish the top of the Salesforce building.

    But Grace is not just another pretty place. It has a long history of advocating for social justice. In the 1930s, the cathedral took a stand on the dockworkers’ strike and labor rights in San Francisco. In the 1950s and 1960s, it advocated for civil rights, and in the 1970s, for the ordination of women. In the 1980s and 1990s, the cathedral was at the forefront of serving people impacted by HIV/AIDS. The cathedral’s work on social justice will be further sharpened because the annual theme it selects to guide its programming focus is truth this year.

    Not everything at Grace is lofty like its 91-foot nave. The cathedral has a children, youth and family ministry led by the Rev. Mary Carter Greene, who described herself in the cathedral’s video for Pride 2017 as “proud to be who God made me, a woman, a mother, an Episcopal priest and a lesbian.” Greene has revitalized the children, youth and family ministry, creating among other things a new children’s chorus that is open to everyone and gets to perform at Grace’s popular Christmas and Easter concerts and at summer arts camp.

    Most of the events and programs at the cathedral are offered free of charge, and the cathedral holds a glitzy party, Carnivale, once a year to raise funds. This year the motif for Carnivale is “All You Need is Love” and it’s being held on February 13, which is also Valentine’s Day Eve as well as Mardi Gras. For the first time ever, the cathedral is offering half-price tickets to people 35 and younger, as it continues to look for ways to make sure there is a place for everyone at Grace.

    The “San Francisco Bay Times” thanks Lynn Aylward, Kelly Costello and the entire team at Grace Cathedral for all of their help in preparing this issue. Grace Cathedral online: