Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal church in the heart of San Francisco.
We are both a warm congregation and a house of prayer for all people.
We welcome visitors from all over the world.


What’s Happening at Grace Cathedral?

UC President Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security and Governor of Arizona

Janet Napolitano on Education

Tuesday, October 25

UC President Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security and Governor of Arizona

A Halloween showing of the 1922 silent horror classic with organ accompaniment by Dorothy Papadakos

The Silent Film Classic “Nosferatu”

Saturday, October 29

A Halloween showing of the 1922 silent horror classic with organ accompaniment by Dorothy Papadakos

Walk with a team at Lake Merced to raise funds for the Interfaith Winter Shelter.

WinterFaith Shelter Walk

Sunday, October 30

Walk with a team at Lake Merced to raise funds for the Interfaith Winter Shelter.

A panel on opportunities for love, joy, wonder and wisdom in the face of sickness, disability, old age and death

Sickness, Old Age and Death: A conversation

Wednesday, November 2

A panel on opportunities for love, joy, wonder and wisdom in the face of sickness, disability, old age and death

Join The Men of Grace for a restorative day retreat with the Rev. Randal Gardner.

Challenging Times: Confident Christians

Saturday, November 5

Join The Men of Grace for a restorative day retreat with the Rev. Randal Gardner.

Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, October 16
Will There Be Faith?
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
“… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” (Lk. 18)?
Read sermon


“… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” (Lk. 18)?

Last week Mark Stanger told a wonderful story about an ancient priest who taught that one word sums up the meaning of everything you see and hear. The word is gratitude. Gratitude because life is a gift – a gift of many other gifts.[1]

It reminded me of a letter I received from an equally old and experienced priest. During my high school years he had been the rector of the church in the town just north of our home. He wrote to tell me that he could not, in good conscience, come to my ordination. I have kept his letter for over twenty years because of his acute sense of despair.

He writes, “I shall not weary you with an explanation. It is sufficient to say that I am a traditional 1928 Prayer Book priest… When I was made a deacon in the 40’s the church was experiencing great growth… These golden days can be restored with orthodoxy and Christian moral principles. The baton will soon be in your hand. Forgive my generation for having corrupted the church and given you a contaminated pasture.”[2]

Why did Father Clark send this letter to me when I was so young and hopeful about the future? Was he helping me, simply telling the truth, trying to persuade me to be more orthodox? Or was he just doing his best to convince himself that his life’s work had not been in vain?

Now all these years later it seems to me that Father Clark was simply afraid. He wondered, “when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth” (Lk. 18). We all feel defeated sometimes. In these moments despair and hopelessness seem inevitable – as if that is the way the world is, rather than one way that we are tempted to see the world. And in those times Luke speaks directly to us. “Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Lk. 18).

Like Father Clark you may be alarmed about the declining influence of religion in our culture. In that case pray and do not lose heart. You may be anxious about what seems like the collapse of civil discourse in America.

We will not be quite the same again after this week. In election news we heard vulgar and lewd comments that amount to bragging about sexual abuse. We have heard threats to imprison political adversaries and that paying taxes is for losers. Unjustified claims that our voting system is rigged undermine our whole faith in the democratic process.

Make no mistake this is about faith. My favorite twentieth century theologian H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) writes, “We see this possibility – that human history will come to its end neither in a brotherhood of man nor in universal death under the blows of a natural or man-made catastrophe, but in the gangrenous corruption of a social life in which every promise, contract, treaty and “word of honor” is given and accepted in deception and distrust. If men no longer have faith in each other, can they exist as men?”[3]

Will Christ find faith on earth when faith is so fragile? Brothers and sisters pray and do not lose heart. Jesus tells us stories startling enough for us to make real change in our lives. He calls these parables. They can shock us out of our indifference. Today Jesus tells about an unrighteous judge who does not fear God or respect human beings.
A widow comes to him repeatedly asking for justice against her accusers. The judge does not care about the widow but to keep her from wearing him out with her constant complaints he decides the case in her favor. Reading the text in Greek, two elements particularly strike me. First the Greek word that we repeatedly translate as justice means vengeance. The stakes are high. The tone is intense.

Second, Luke conveys a feeling of hurry, impatience and conviction that gets lost. Greek uses double negatives to add emphasis. It’s almost as if Jesus raises his voice to underline what he means. A more literal version might be, “And will not God give vengeance to his chosen ones who are crying day and night? And be impatient to help them!”

The point is not that God resembles the unjust judge. In almost every respect Jesus describes God as the opposite. The judge is self-centered. He only uses people. But God is full of love, impatient for his children to have what we require to thrive, and even unafraid to be humiliated for our sake. The purpose of the story is for us to trust God and to value persistence in prayer.

Right here in the Bay Area we need to hear this news more than ever. Yesterday in his address to the Diocesan Convention Bishop Marc Andrus called this the most perilous time in all of history. As a species we have never been so close to destroying our planet. He pointed out that this is not primarily about fossil fuels. It is a spiritual problem. Pray and do not lose heart.

When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth? I have suggested that this expression could be about the church, our civil discourse, the health of our planet. It could also be about the vulnerability of our children.

When I told my seventeen year old son Micah that I wanted to talk about the importance of spirituality for children he was pleased. He said that it is harder to be a spiritual person in a Bay Area middle school or high school than anywhere else on the planet. He might be right.

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defines religion as, “a system of symbols that… establishes powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations that make sense in terms of… a general order of existence.”[4] The dominant religious myth that most of us experience in Northern California is the atheist myth.

It goes like this. “In the past humans were primitive and backward (as they still are in other less enlightened places). They made up myths because they did not understand what happens in the natural world. Today we believe only in material things, only in science.” For people like this there is no such thing as spiritual truth. Anyone who disagrees is simply ignorant or a coward who cannot face the obvious facts about reality.

Today’s forum guest Lisa Miller believes that denying our spirituality is not just untrue, it is unhealthy for us and especially for our children. She writes that before the late 1990’s social scientists for various reasons did not adequately study spirituality, especially in children.

Since then using new techniques that range from twin studies to neuroimaging scientists now have a different appreciation for the role of spirituality in human flourishing and happiness. On this basis she claims that all children innately possess what she calls “natural spirituality.” According to her this interest in transcendence, this “direct sense of… the heartbeat of the living universe… precedes and transcends language, culture and religion.”[5]
Most importantly during adolescence as their brains mature young people experience a corresponding spiritual hunger. The problem, Dr. Miller says, is that today when it comes to children many adults focus almost entirely on accomplishment (12). Parents are so unsure of their own faith that they avoid even talking about spirituality. When young people ask spiritual questions, adults simply do not have much to say. She quotes one parent who says, “I didn’t realize for a long time that when my child asks a question and I say, “I don’t know,” and just leave it at that, I’m actually stopping the conversation (47).”

With the spiritual conversation stopped, young people during this time of surging hormones and extensive brain development are more likely to suffer from depression or to search for transcendence with alcohol, drugs and risky behavior. This is all the more crushing because during adolescence young people have the chance to establish a spirituality that will carry them through a whole lifetime of ups and downs. Miller recommends us to put aside our discomfort and really talk to our children about the mystery and the beauty at the source of all life. This is a special challenge in our city.
At this Cathedral and in our school we are taking important steps to address this spiritual epidemic among young people. Last week Mary Carter Green joined the Cathedral staff as our Children, Youth and Families Minister. She has a deep passion for the spiritual life of young people. During the summer we asked Jude Harmon to explore how we can spiritually support people in their twenties and thirties.

In conclusion, last week I told Isabel Allende our forum guest last week that dozen times a day I see something beautiful and in my heart I say, “Thank you!” I told her that I talk to God throughout the day, that God for me is a friend. She looked at me and said, “You’re crazy!” Maybe I am. I do not seek out God’s presence because I want God to do something for me, or because it will somehow make me happier. I just feel drawn to the source of life’s mystery.

Perhaps part of the problem is how we understand prayer. Spiritual maturity means moving beyond a picture of prayer as a kind of shopping list of things for God to do. Prayer is a way of being, a way of noticing what is happening and feeling grateful.

Kathleen Norris writes, “prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine. To be made more grateful, more able to see the good in what you have been given instead of always grieving for what might have been.”[6]

Do not be afraid that your life work has been in vain. Do not despair that one day in our country every promise may be given and accepted in deception and distrust. Do not lose hope for our planet, our country or our children. Remember one word for the meaning of everything. Gratitude. Pray always and do not lose heart.

[1] Mark Stanger, 11:00 a.m. Sermon at Grace Cathedral, 9 October 2016.

[2] Letter from the Reverend Mr. James Brice Clark 30 July 1994 (321 Bartlett Ave., Woodland, CA 95695). St. Luke’s tenure from 1975-1988).

[3] H. Richard Niebuhr, Faith on Earth: An Inquiry into the Structure of Human Faith ed. Richard R. Niebuhr (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 1989) 1.

[4] Robert N. Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011) xiv.

[5] Lisa Miller, The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving (NY: Picador, 2015) 25.

[6] Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (NY: Riverhead Books, 1998) 60-1.

Sunday, October 9
At last: the answer!
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Mark E. Stanger
Can you name one thing that just might the answer to all human and spiritual striving?
Read sermon

Can you name one thing that just might the answer to all human and spiritual striving?

Also:  a small 99% Muslim village in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank keeps the memory of today’s Gospel story.  Church of the Ten Lepers

Discover Grace

Stewardship Season

The Community Preschool

Tour Smart with GraceGuide

Home is Where the Heart Is – the theme for cathedral stewardship in 2017 – offers us the opportunity to renew our support, express our gratitude and make a commitment to our shared mission.

Whether you have been a part of our congregation for many years or you are new to Grace, with each pledge, we deepen our own spiritual awareness of our blessing and share with others in service. During stewardship season, with every pledge received, we will add a heart on Benjamin Buffano’s statue of St. Francis in the nave, showing the congregation’s special love for Grace Cathedral and welcoming everyone to be a part of it.

Ingathering — the annual, celebratory day on which we submit our pledges — is on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

The Community Preschool is an extraordinary early childhood program that prepares children not just for kindergarten success but for life itself. We founded the school because we have a passion for learning.

The Community Preschool is an intentionally diverse early education program that brings together children from families that are very varied in terms of culture, socio-economics, race and more. Our preschool  changes lives by providing scholarships to preschoolers who reside in the Tenderloin and other at-risk San Francisco neighborhoods.

Let our mobile app lead you through one of the city’s most beautiful and beloved landmarks.

Our mobile app GraceGuide gives visitors a fun, new way to see the cathedral. A series of compelling audio stories available on the app spans the architecture, artworks, history and role of Grace Cathedral in the community today. Current offerings are a welcome by Bishop Marc Andrus, a cathedral highlights tour, music for reflection and a treasure hunt for kids and their families. Download GraceGuide on the App Store or on Google Play by searching for GraceGuide—Tours of Grace Cathedral San Francisco.


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