Finances Overtake Cathedral in Delaware

In 1996 the Court for the Trial of a Bishop gathered at the Cathedral of St. John in Wilmington, Del., to hear the doctrinal case involving Bishop Walter C. Righter. This year, only two weeks after Righter’s death, the vestry of the cathedral announced that it will close in July 2012.

“Last year a proposal was presented to the Bishop and Council requesting assistance for the next five years to give the cathedral additional time to resolve its membership and financial issues,” the cathedral’s 15-member vestry Sept. 25. “In June, Bishop Wayne Wright reported … that the diocese had turned down the request and would not provide any funds because, in order to do so, it would have to cease funding other programs already in place within the diocese.”

The cathedral is known for more than the Righter case. Alexis Irénée du Pont helped found St. John’s, which was consecrated as a church in 1858 and became a cathedral in 1935.

Since 1883 it has been home to the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware, a free after-school program that offered homework tutoring and music lessons to students from age 7 to 17. It also has hosted a pilot congregation that meets once a month, says the cathedral’s website, to “further racial understanding, fight racism, and share in the Eucharist.”

Writing in the September issue of the cathedral’s newsletter, the Very Rev. William B. Lane, interim dean since 2006, encouraged members to press on at a time when the cathedral’s future was unclear.

“There is much that is out of my control and yours as the journey unfolds for Saint John’s,” the dean wrote. “But being out of control is not an invitation to cease being involved. For wherever the journey leads, there is still life and work for now. And the quality and prosperity of that life and work depends upon the Holy Spirit and upon us. Our ongoing presence, prayers and financial offerings are in our control. Whatever comes, we will not just be going through the motions with our continued engagement. Being faithful in the time and place provided for us is never just going through the motions.”

Writing in his own weekly newsletter, the Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright, Bishop of Delaware, praised the dean and others in their efforts to preserve the cathedral’s ministry.

“So many have planned, worked, and given over these last years hoping for another outcome. I am especially grateful to Dean Lane, the parish leadership, and all who have supported the Cathedral Choir School. Their devotion is recognized and genuinely appreciated,” the bishop wrote.

“We must now accept this decision and support it. Your prayers and good will are essential resources. We will be working with Dean Lane and the Cathedral leadership to provide pastoral support for the congregation and its members during the coming transition. The Cathedral Choir School continues to be a vital, creative ministry with a positive future. We support what the Choir School is doing to explore quite viable options for the future.”

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