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161: Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California
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Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California
Mystery Worshipper: Kyzyl.
The church: Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Jubilant post-Earthquake of 1906 Gothic poised atop Nob Hill.
The neighbourhood: You can reach the cathedral via the California Street cable car. The Mark Hopkins and Fairmont hotels are in the immediate neighborhood. High rent district.
The cast: Celebrants were the Rt. Rev. William Swing, Bishop of California, and Deacon Rev. Nina Pickerell.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Ash Wednesday.

How full was the building?
I didn't get a head count but at least 100. But Grace is so large that anything less than 500 seems insignificant.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a very warm welcome from the greeter.

Was your pew comfortable?
Basic pew. Comfy with cushions. Good kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reverential. The acoustics are like any large stone building, so footsteps and whispers do echo. But no distracting chit-chat.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"May God be with you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 ECUSA Book of Common Prayer, the1982 Hymnal, and a printed service leaflet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The occasional passing cable car with bells jingling.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Warmly Anglo-Catholic with a good dose of San Franciscan cultural diversity to leaven it.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes!

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – a bishop who keeps a sermon to 7 minutes?!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A call to repentance for our personal and corporate sins. Quote: "Ash Wednesday isn't for sissies."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregants. This is no monochromatic church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The usher who insisted I re-enter my pew from the "proper" side, even though that meant climbing over four people in prayer.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This was a midday service in a very busy city. Everyone just quietly hustled out. I did browse the bookstore and the clerk was quite helpful.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10. Now, if I could just find a job that pays well enough to live in San Francisco...

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The windows. I haven't seen that much cobalt blue outside of Chartres. Heaven help me, I'm a sucker for colored silica.
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