Sunday's Church Is Saturday's Night Club

Bertie Pearson knows it seems suspicious. A church hosting great music and art on Saturday night-that isn't making the soft sell...

Bertie Pearson
knows it seems suspicious. A church hosting great music and art on Saturday night-that isn't making the soft sell for Sunday morning? "It sounds really unlikely that we're not some fundamentalist church that's come up with a bait-and-switch scheme," says the young Episcopal priest, mastermind of EpiscoDisco, a year-old performance series held in San Francisco's towering Grace Cathedral. "We just wanted one night a month when people could feel at home."

Trust the man. The free monthly events carry no trace of the archetypal Christian rock concert, cringe-worthy in music and message. Each features a DJ, a live musical act, and an art installation staged in the cathedral's labyrinth, plus the flask-toting, bespectacled crowd to match (unblessed alcohol is welcome). Nor does Pearson have any interest in featuring bad music. Prior to his ordination, the reverend logged years as a DJ, and he wears his black clericals with a club veteran's élan.Stunning architecture is clearly EpiscoDisco's trump card: Under the cathedral's vaults, the performances veer easily into the sublime. But Pearson is also keen to keep it from being "just a party in a weird space." He's drawn to the notion that the secular and the sacred don't have to be at odds-that art inside Grace can feel elevated by the simple awareness that "people have spent 100 years taking that space really seriously." As for the practical matter of folks not trashing the pews, Pearson says he's had no trouble. "There's a lot of trust. I trust they won't bring in graffiti, and they trust we're not going to proselytize."

Photos courtesy of Bertie Pearson.

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