Well, today is my birthday.  And, because I am less than full time at St. George’s, I get an occassional Sunday off.  This was one of them — even though it’s Pentecost.  So we planned a trip (my birthday present) around getting in to worship at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco.  We’ve been talking about doing this for some time.

Anyway, we left Saturday morning and headed to the Harbor Court Hotel, where we parked our car (and our room was already available!).  We headed over to the farmer’s market at the ferry building (almost directly accross the street).  We’ d been there once before and found yummy, early tomatoes.  We found them again (and some blackberries).  We wondered around and had gelatos before heading back.  We had berries and leftovers for lunch.  Then we headed out to do some sightseeing.  We had dinner at a Mexico DC restaurant a few doors down from the hotel.  We had wine before dinner (hosted wine tasting) and cookies and milk before bed at the hotel — all part of the package.

It was pretty pleasant.  The one thing I’ll say about the hotel is that the rooms are small, probabloy the smallest I’ve been in, but comfortable.  No chairs for reading (big for me).  But they have a common area downstairs that was comfortable and well lighted and well used.  (That’s where we had our wine and cookies, and coffee in the morning, as well as read and played cards.)  We were well taken care of.

This morning we loaded up the car and headed over to the 8:30 AM service at St. Gregory’s.  What a wonderful (if unusual) worship space.  People were warm and friendly throughout our visit.  Everyone had a name badge (like little round political pins).  It was nice being in a service where I really did not know what was coming next.  I mean, I had some idea.  And we were directed pretty seemlessly.  But it wasn’t quite like anything I’ve experienced before.  Someone, who I would describe as a cantor (I have no idea of his official designation) opened with a soft chant inviting us into worship.  The congregation was seated in two halves, facing each other.  There were wonderful silences throughout the service.  There was one scripture (from Acts), followed by one of he best sermons I’ve ever heard (by Sara Miles), followed by thoughtful responses from the congregation.  She started her sermon talking about how what we like to call the acts of the apostles are really the acts of the Holy Spirit, and went on from there.  It was very nice.  The man seated behind us on the aisle brought his dog — as far as I could tell, a regular (though very well behaved) dog — who was a regular presence during Sunday worship.

Before communion, we processed into an open area around the altar.  There we stood in a circle, and when the time came, shared communion with each other.  My piece of bread was big enough I knew I’d really eaten bread!  And before we left, I received a triple blessing, sung by the whole congregation, for my  birthday (with everyone touching someone who was touching me).  And we did a simple dance with what I’d call a closing hymn — a gentle stretch for someone like me.  Everyone had a hand on their neighbor’s shoulder, which helped break down barriers between us.  And we were using our bodies in worship in a meaningful way.

Finally, as the service ended, the altar was converted into a serving table for the coffee hour (crumpets with all the fixings).  Beautiful!  Talking with people afterwards, this was the smaller, more contemplative service.  Another time we’ll have to go in and experience worship at the 10:30 AM service.  But it was perfect for us today.

To top it off, we had brunch at the Royal Cafe in Berkeley — still there these many years later!  It used to be our favorite local breakfast place when we lived there.  It’s still well worth a stop.