The festival will feature works in paint, photography, glass, fiber, sculpture, and more, exhibiting 76 pieces by approximately 50 artists.
The Rev. Janet Broderick, who has been at Grace for seven years, says she looks forward to the festival every year, believing it's one of the biggest arts events in the city.
"We want to keep artists in Jersey City," Broderick says. "We want to keep working artists here."
Established in 1847, the Episcopal church has been running the festival for 19 years. Hosting events through May 23, this year Grace is offering a children's art workshop, a poetry reading, coffee house performances, an independent short film showcase, and an encore of their successful U2charist, which was held there for the first time in December for World AIDS Day.
Sharing in the U2charist
Held on May 17 at 7 p.m., the charitable live performance of songs by the enduring activist rock band, U2, is the Eucharist (Communion) celebrated to the tune of their songs, such as "Where the Streets Have No Name," a favorite of U2charist lead guitarist Jason Guerette, who has been coming to Grace with his family since he was in kindergarten.
A 17-year-old senior at McNair Academic High School, Jason is not very religious in the spiritual sense - but that's not unusual or even frowned upon at Grace. In fact, Jason, like many, goes for the special part he can play in the church, specifically guitarist.
More than 200 people came to the first U2charist and heard Jason with the church band and vocalists performing the popular songs.
During the event, Grace raised $860 in donations for Hudson Pride Connection, St. Lucy's Shelter, and Doctors Without Borders.
This time, the collection will benefit the York Street Project in Jersey City, which helps women and the poor. All are welcome to take Communion - or abstain - without exception. Some will come just to hear the music, and some will discover it as Jason has.
"I've sort of become a fan of their music," says Jason Guerette. "It's interesting to me that when you look loosely at it, it actually is Christian music - it can be interpreted that way."
And Jason has seen the audience connect with that message.
"People came up to me after the first one and said that they were affected spiritually, and one of the guys I spoke to came because he was a U2 fan and he felt spiritually affected by the service even though he didn't come for the spirituality."
'The Bishop's Daughter'
On May 16, Honor Moore, daughter of the former Rev. and Bishop of New York Paul Moore, will be reading from her book, The Bishop's Daughter (W.W. Norton & Company), focusing on sections about her time at the church. Moore, www.honormoore.com, will also be signing copies, available at the reading.
The Moore family lived in the Grace rectory from the time Honor was 4 until she was 11, and she believes that the church still embodies and upholds the standard of inclusive community that her father helped to set when he began his calling at Grace in 1949.
"The spirit is the same," Moore says. "The spirit of inclusion and celebration and a belief that progressive social action is inseparable from Christian life."
That inclusive, welcoming spirit was something her father helped cultivate there.
"My father was bisexual, but that was a very painful and tormenting secret that he kept for most of his life," explains Moore. "The book is about our relationship, and I myself was with women for 15 years of my life, so I felt a connection with him in that way. My father's ministry was about inclusion, about the idea that everyone is a child of God."
Moore feels her father's work is being continued at Grace today.
"Janet's spirit is so at one with how it was when I was a child there," says Moore, who has never been to the Cathedral Arts Festival before.
"For me, it's returning to the happiest part of my childhood," she says, adding that it was one of her father's happiest times, too.
"I think it's always powerful to have one's history mirrored back through the imagination and through art, and I hope by imparting part of my experience there that I'll make whatever small contribution I can to the work that's going on there now," says Moore. "I think that my father will be looking on from wherever he is with a big smile on his face."
A rich tapestry
Jason Guerette's mother, Claire, is a co-chair of the festival. With her husband Mark part of the worship band, and daughter Amanda, 15, part of Grace's youth group - Mark and Amanda are also singing in the U2charist - the Guerrettes, of the Jersey City Heights, find creative expression for the whole family there.
"It's really a spiritual home for us," says Claire Guerette. "It's a diverse community, and the thing that drew us to Grace Church 12 years ago was the music ministry and it continues to be an important part of our life. I think that it's one of the best things that ever happened to our family."
Claire says that the space, with stone arches and no pews, is ideal; it's flexible enough to allow them to host panels of artwork, musicians, and regular services.
Claudia Perry, Jersey City resident and "recovering Jeopardy champion," is heading the short film festival that will feature five films and run approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Films include one about racial dynamics and tension immediately post-9/11, a comedy about a woman trying to give up her love of eating chicken, an abstract piece described as "a meditation on Harlem," and a 2-D animation.
"I think that our church has a special place in the hearts of the local art community because of [the festival] and our participation in the Artists' Studio Tour," says Perry, a church member of four years now, singing in the choir and participating in the prayer shall knitting program.
In its history, Grace has sewn quite a fabric of creative community in addition to its services and efforts to help seniors and the homeless.
Jersey City resident and co-chair of the festival Greg LeCleir discovered the church he describes as "down-to-earth" and "meaningful" right in his neighborhood.
"I'm very spiritual, and I wanted a church that was inclusive but also focused on the Gospel," explains LeCleir. "What drew me to Grace is the fact that Janet is a Biblical scholar."
Originally from Nebraska, LeCleir has been active in the church for a year now, and is excited about the festival.
"It truly is a celebration of the arts, but it's broader," LeCleir says, explaining that Grace mixes with the local community to become part of it. "A lot of churches want to reach out to the community but won't become part of it - and though that's a very subtle [distinction, Grace's approach] speaks volumes."
This year's festival runs May 10 to 23 always starting at 7 p.m. In addition to Moore's book reading on May 16, the U2charist on May 17, and the short film festival on May 22, there will be a coffee house-style performance on May 20. Donations are suggested but not mandatory.
Comments can be sent to Mpaul@hudsonreporter.com.