A benefit of a high-travel lifestyle such as mine is the opportunity to visit an internationally infinite range of places of worship to visit during the course of the 52 Churches project. This Christmas and New Years found me and my family in San Francisco and since the project was never meant to be geographically restricted, I am trying to use my two weeks in the Bay Area to best effect, with some opportunities to visit faiths not found on Cape Cod and around Southeastern Massachusetts.
Christmas Eve services are one of the two high holy days in Christianity – the other being Easter Sunday – and the result is big crowds of the seasonally faithful. Still, crowds or not, the project was falling behind after missing last Sunday’s opportunity due to travel so the chance to experience an extraordinary church and service was too compelling to miss because of my usual claustrophobic aversion to crowds. I didn’t want to be the pious guy during the Christmas Eve party, but the opportunity to check out a super church was too good to miss.
This section is not meant to be the big Episcopalian discourse of this project, but simply an account of a beautiful Nativity, or Christmas mass conducted at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral – the third largest Episcopalian cathedral in the United States. When I was last in San Francisco in November I happened to drive up California Street to Nob Hill and, my eyes now tuned to look for possible churches to visit, I was captivated by the huge Gothic cathedral which reminded me of Paris’ Notre Dame but is obviously much younger, having been completed in the mid-1960s. I had never visited before, but resolved to make Grace my Christmas Eve stop, assuming a place so grand must put on the full show for the highest of Christian holidays.
Figure 1From Hysterical Bertha on Flickr