Open Cathedral – Civic Center
Open Cathedral came into being to bridge the gap that people living on the streets felt between their discomfort at attending traditional walled churches, and their desire to attend and participate fully in worship. They asked the Night Ministry to provide a safe and friendly worship service for them. We looked at the success of a number of outdoor worship services across the country and knew we could respond positively. We also knew that this would create new opportunities for members of congregations to extend outreach by offering a meal and having meaningful individual conversations in the context of direct service.
For a short while in the late 1960s, the Night Ministry offered a worship service at 2:00 a.m., but numbers were too low to stay viable. So, on Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, Open Cathedral – Civic Center was born. We gather each Sunday at 2:00 p.m. on public space near City Hall. This worship service includes praying and preaching, readings and singing, and a celebration of the Eucharist (Holy Communion). This is followed by a lunch donated by a congregation or civic organization, and time for the same pastoral care, counseling, and crisis intervention that is offered each night.
On average 75 people gather for worship and 150 lunches are distributed each Sunday.
Open Cathedral – Castro
As an outgrowth of a similar weekly outdoor worship service in the Castro neighborhood that was begun in November, 2009 with moderate success, the Rev. Diana Wheeler helped to focus our efforts on partnering with other organizations and coordinating special events in that neighborhood. These include the distribution of ashes each Ash Wednesday, a procession of palms each Palm Sunday, caroling each Christmas Eve, and candlelight vigils to remember Harvey Milk, George Moscone and others who have died who are associated with the LGBTQ communities.
Open Cathedral – Castro is also a virtual community for more than 800 people. We maintain a page on Facebook and other social media sites which offer inspirational stories, updates on events happening in the Castro neighborhood, and the opportunity to request prayers each week.
Open Cathedral – Mission
On May 19, 2011, our third Open Cathedral began. The Rev. Monique Ortiz was eager to duplicate the success of Open Cathedral – Civic Center, but this time as a bi-lingual English-Spanish worship service. Open cathedral – Mission meets each Thursday at 5:30 p.m. outside the 16th Street and Mission BART station. We offer a meal and time for private conversation, prayer, and crisis intervention after each worship service.
On average, 50 people gather for worship and 100 meals are distributed each Thursday.
At each Open Cathedral we meet people where they are in their own lives, invite them to participate at any level of comfort, and turn no one away. Our goal is to build communities that reflect the basic Christian values of love for one another and service to the world, while supporting and encouraging people on their own spiritual journeys. Attendance at worship is not required to receive a meal or private conversation, and often the busy outdoor marketplace settings expose the stark contrasts of life in the church and life in the world. While people are praying, singing, and reflecting on words being preached, they can also sometimes see acts of violence, abuse, and other realities of life on the city streets occurring nearby. Yet, each week faithful people gather together. Each Open Cathedral has been blessed by attracting an active usher corps – regular attendees who help set up for worship, greet people as they arrive, and supervise the meal serving; and faithful people who prepare and bring food to be shared. People who come from traditional walled churches are often moved by the experience they find. In their hospitality and serving, they become examples for us all.