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    Grace Cathedral and the Cycle of Life

    Like a living work of art, Grace Cathedral means different things to all who visit this largest Gothic cathedral in San Francisco—the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation.

    For members of the church, life’s big events take place here. These include baptisms, weddings, confirmations, funerals and much more. For the homeless, the cathedral can signify survival through the Winter Interfaith Shelter program. On Tuesday evenings, yoga practitioners come for both mental and physical fitness. Incredible concerts and other events are regularly held at the cathedral, including the spectacular annual Carnivale fundraiser. The AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel offers space for remembrance of those whose lives have been impacted by HIV/AIDS, including caregivers.

    Members of our team at the San Francisco Bay Times have been to that chapel often. We have also celebrated Pride at the cathedral, admiring the rainbow lights glowing from the top of the 174-foot edifice during June. We have attended same-sex marriages, which have occurred for more than a decade in the cathedral—long before such ceremonies were recognized nationwide. We have also gone to funerals there, such as the Imperial Court ceremony for legendary LGBT activist and entertainer José Julio Sarria, Absolute Empress I de San Francisco and the Widow Norton. At least 1,000 mourners—many of whom were in drag—attended the unforgettable service.

    We have visited the cathedral for comfort and contemplation, walking the labyrinths to release nervous energy and to quiet our minds. Veriditas is an organization dedicated to the “labyrinth experience” and that was founded by Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, a member of our LGBT community ( As Dr. Artress says, “The Labyrinth is a spiritual tool that has many applications in various settings. It reduces stress, quiets the mind and opens the heart. It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and blue-print where psyche meets Spirit.”

    You do not have to be a religious, or even spiritual, person to find meaning in the labyrinths or in Grace Cathedral itself. They may be archetypes, but you can peacefully project whatever meaning you like on them.

    Spend any time at the site, and the cathedral’s daily rhythms of life are evident. Over longer periods of time, seasonal and annual cycles emerge. Over the decades, life’s entire cycle becomes evident. On certain days, the seeming ends of the circle converge, with youths playing in one corner while mourners quietly light candles in another. Like the labyrinth, the observed pattern turns out not to be a simple circle after all, but a path with twists and turns that are not always predictable.

    As for a handful of other beautiful, iconic places in San Francisco, Grace Cathedral offers a reliable, sturdy anchor to help us weather these unpredictable storms and to celebrate the better times. Its doors are open to everyone. Whether you have an afternoon or just an hour, consider visiting this venerable majestic friend to walk the labyrinths, admire the Keith Haring altarpiece, to seek out the stained-glass windows featuring Albert Einstein and John Glenn, or just to enjoy the towering space.

    For more suggestions, check out the Top Ten Things to See + Do at Grace (


    Welcome to Carnivale at Grace Cathedral!

    Dear San Francisco Bay Times Readers,

    It is such a blessing to join the San Francisco Bay Times in welcoming you to this issue featuring Grace Cathedral and our annual benefit, Carnivale.

    Grace Cathedral and the San Francisco Bay Times have much in common. We are both San Francisco institutions that share a deep commitment to the LGBTQ community. We both care acutely about ending discrimination and hatred in our society. We both are committed to celebrating the uniqueness of every person. I am grateful for the many ways that LGBTQ people have supported and ministered at Grace Cathedral over the years.  

    Grace Cathedral has long been a supporter of racial justice, women’s liberation, environmental stewardship, LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. We have become known around the church for these ministries. On December 1, 2017, World AIDS Day, we re-dedicated our AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel. This place of peace and sanctuary was established in 1995 to remember people who died with AIDS and to honor caregivers.

    On 365 days of the year, we offer worship, social services to people in need, music concerts, art exhibitions, lectures, volunteer opportunities, public dialogue, yoga and more. We do this to fulfill our mission, to exercise compassion, value inclusivity, nurture creativity and to foster learning. We do this to encourage people everywhere to love each other without exception.

    I invite you to visit Grace Cathedral. You may want to come here to get married, attend a service, practice yoga, walk the labyrinths, hear a concert, take part in Carnivale—or simply to enjoy peace in a beautiful setting with stained glass and soaring columns.

    Thank you, San Francisco Bay Times, for your service to the community and invaluable support to the mission of Grace Cathedral as the media sponsor of Carnivale.


    The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young
    Dean of Grace Cathedral