SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — On Pentecost Sunday, considered the birthday of the Christian Church, the massive Grace Episcopal Cathedral on San Francisco’s Nob Hill celebrated a rebirth of sorts, opening its doors to worshipers for the first time since the pandemic began.

There is a tradition at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that the ornate Ghiberti front doors are kept closed except for special occasions or when the bishop is visiting. On Sunday, both of those conditions were met and the doors were open wide.

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Bishop Marc Andrus presided over the Sunday mass as the cathedral welcomed its congregation for the first time in more than 14 months.

“We watched it every Sunday on Zoom but this is a great day, to see everybody together,” said longtime parishioner Toye Moses. “God needs to be praised that we are alive today.”

During his sermon, the Bishop thanked the people for their patience.

The Bishop’s voice cracked with emotion as he thanked the people for their patience.

“I am so grateful to you. You have kept each other and your neighbors safe. You have, literally, saved lives,” Bishop Andurs said.

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Masks were kept on and the only singing came from the cathedral men’s choir but just being in the building, with its stained glass windows and soaring ceiling, inspired a feeling you can’t get from Zoom.

“It’s awesome! And, for me, the spirit and the height of the building — it’s a beautiful, strong feeling,” said Linda Rae Hardwick, who was visiting on Sunday.

That’s the intention. The cavernous interior, the giant historical murals, the larger-than-life statues, the bishop says they are all designed to make people feel small — to remind them that there is something larger out there.

“It all comes together in this building. It gives us a vision of harmony and beauty and vastness, which is important, the idea that there is a reality of love that’s bigger than we are, bigger than the problems we face,” he explained.

After the service the congregation filed outside to receive communion on the front steps. It may have been a COVID-19 safety precaution but it was also a reminder that, while you can get inspiration inside church walls, you usually have to step outside to help others.

“A lot of people have been under a lot of strain and stress this year,” said parishioner Alma Robinson. “We’re hoping that we’re able to come around and be a better community, be a better country after this.”

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At 8:45 Sunday, as part of its re-opening celebration, the church will present a special arts program, projecting images onto the exterior façade of the cathedral in honor of Pentecost and Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.