Sojourn Chaplaincy Evensong at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

On Thursday, February 25, the Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, community gathered to celebrate and honor the work of Sojourn Chaplaincy at San Francisco General Hospital

The order of service followed the traditional pattern for Evensong, and the service music was by William Bryrd. The canticles were from Herbert Howells’ “Gloucester Service.” E.J. Hopkins composed the Anglican chant setting of Psalm 3 used in the service. The readers for the night were the Rev. Floyd Trammell and Merryl Lanning. The lessons were Job 1.1-22 and Luke 21.34-22.6.

In his homily for the evening, the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of California, addressed the story of Job — the perennial question that rings through human history: Whose fault is this? Who do we blame? He noted that this question is at the root of the story of Oedipus Rex, and was a question that resounded through the San Francisco Bay Area at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. 

Andrus opened his homily by noting that he is a Southerner by birth but has been adopted by California — and in his role as Bishop of California it is important to know the stories and histories that have formed this particular place, and one of those monumental times for formation was the AIDS Crisis.

About blame and AIDS Andrus said, “At our great public hospital, San Francisco General, people were dying and dying alone. Few people visited AIDS patients from outside the hospital and staff were scared. Many were scared that these people were bringing plague on everyone, and people were wondering, ‘Who do we blame?’ Some answered, ‘Gay men — those most affected — must have brought it on themselves…and maybe God did this.’”

He said that the work of Sojourn Chaplaincy challenged those answers. He continued, “People wondered, ‘Does God not care if God didn't do it? Has God left the earth?’ There were no answers. The people who started Sojourn Chaplaincy believe that God is good and they embodied that as ever they could, by being love incarnate. This is how Sojourn was started: training people to accompany people on their journey to death, embodying God’s love, and showing that God hadn’t abandoned the earth or its inhabitants.”

During the concluding prayers the Rev. Canon Stefani Schatz prayed a special prayer for Sojourn Chaplaincy (below), and a full, festive reception followed the Evensong. Board members, staff, and volunteers were all honored and introduced during the reception. Sojourn Chaplaincy has grown to be interfaith from Episcopalian and to encompass all chaplaincy needs at San Francisco General Hospital, from focusing on those suffering from AIDS. With this growth the work and ministry of Sojourn Chaplaincy have remained constant, to represent the love of the divine to all who suffer. For more information about Sojourn or to donate, visit http://sojournchaplaincy.org.

A prayer for sojourn chaplaincy

Holy One in whom is healing for body, mind, and spirit:
 
We give thanks for the ministry of Sojourn Chaplaincy. We are grateful for their ministry of presence to patients and their loved ones as well as to the staff at San Francisco General Hospital. We give thanks the chaplains — past, present, and yet to come — who, in 1982, began to sit without an agenda, listening to the needs of the patients, and who bring their unique skills to witness, name and create space for hope, health and healing. 
 
Through one chaplaincy of many faiths, the belief that each person is remarkable, unique, deserving of compassion and understanding is brought into three-dimensional reality. Because of this organization our society is shown a vision of caring for those who happen to live in the most difficult and painful of circumstances. 
 
Please bless all those connected with the Sojourn Chaplaincy, which completes the healing circle at San Francisco General by attending to the spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff. We ask this in the name of Jesus our brother. Amen.