My favorite place to preach, worship, or preside is at San Francisco Night Ministry’s Open Cathedral at the Civic Center location. I’m there once or twice a month bringing food and often preach or preside on those Sundays as well. If I have time, I come on Sundays when I have no other particular responsibilities just because I like to.
Open Cathedral’s Civic Center location is outdoors on the plaza behind the fountain at the Civic Center, just where Leavenworth comes down to meet McAllister, every Sunday at 2p.m., rain or shine. We share worship, Communion, and lunch. Though there is no requirement to come to the service in order to receive lunch, our worshiping congregation is sometimes close to 100 people. Even in the pouring rain we’ll get 30 or so. We feed around 100 the first few Sundays of the month and sometimes 150 -200 on fourth and fifth Sundays.
A few Sundays ago Rev. Monique Ortiz, the Associate Night Minister in charge of the Civic Center Open Cathedral was running late. She was coming from San Gregorio and in a hurry, so she stopped in a little mercado there to pick up the Communion elements. It turned out her choices were pretty limited. There was no grape juice at all and none of the kinds of bread we normally use. There was no time to go anywhere else though, so she pickup up artichoke heart bread and some grape Rockstar soda.
Ok, all you liturgical purists out there take a deep breath and hear why that was so perfect for Open Cathedral. What you have to understand is that everybody and I do mean everybody is welcome at Open Cathedral. On a typical Sunday we welcome people who don’t feel comfortable inside walls and people with active mental health or substance abuse issues who would be shushed or asked to leave in many traditional congregations. We often welcome student groups and board members from some of the best non-profits in the City alongside people who live in SRO’s, people who live in mansions, and people with no roof of their own at all. We don’t welcome every behavior, but we do welcome every person. We welcome babies and elderly people and every age in between. We welcome fully able bodied folks and people in wheelchairs. We welcome folks who embody the full spectrum of genders. That is all on a typical Sunday for us.
If the body of Christ can be all those people – and you know Jesus would welcome all those people – then artichoke heart bread and grape Rockstar can represent the body of Christ as well as Welch’s and sourdough. Maybe we should use non-traditional elements in traditional churches once in a while just to remind us of the wide variety of bodies and minds Jesus welcomed to him.