blessed is the man that hopeth in Him.”
I have to laugh when people unfamiliar with San Francisco speak of its "values" and imply that the place is somehow godless. Far from it. It has more churches sanctuaries, more spiritual impulses & seekers, more striving for a godhead than any place I've ever lived in America. Perhaps New Orleans is its only rival in this regard.
The gate seen in the photo above leads to a small sanctum in an old Edwardian on Steiner Street across from Duboce Park in The Lower Haight. In contrast to the grand Russian Orthodox cathedral in The Richmond District with its golden onion domes glinting by the Pacific Ocean, this synaxis, or 'place of reunion,' is in a folk vernacular, humble, on a human scale and very much of its neighborhood. The Haight continues to be a center of whatever counts as Counterculture in the 21st Century.
Any enlightened person should be both wary of and compelled by religiosity. It can drive a person mad beyond reason, but it also tries to inspire through belief, and that, as Kierkegaard said, requires a leap of faith (fear, trembling, the works). I'm mostly in it for the architecture so I try to go into as many temples as I can wherever I live, whatever the liturgy. After all, the sole aim of houses of worship -- the architectural 'why?' -- is to aspire, to help strive for, to draw one in every direction, outward and inward, down and up, with a congregation, side by side and alone with God.
The Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos is an Orthodox parish that grew right out of the counterculture of the 1960s. It 'grafted' roots to an established tradition but via a long strange trip, indeed. Its predecessor, The Holy Order of MANS (Mysterion, Agape, Nous, Sophia) established itself in the tumultuous year, 1968. The new church's history traces an arc from The Age of Aquarius and Gnosticism to Orthodox Christianity; a cult not without controversy, schism, abuses, even real estate scandals but nevertheless a genuinely San Franciscan story. A tribe of believers getting it together here, looking for light in the dark: illumination.
In devotional art, God appears in The Heavens. Look up! But the Lord is also water. Think of rain poring down, soaking the ground, through cracks to a spirit river flowing underneath us. The aquifer rises in sacred springs from which we drink the water we are made of, and so are refreshed. Someone, something may poison a well but that doesn't mean water itself is not, for the life of us all, so very great, good, and vital. Taste it and see.