Keeping Faith with Cities

“Don’t abandon the city,” pleaded the Very Rev. Justin Alan Lindstrom, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City, in a closing sermon at the annual North American Cathedral Deans’ conference.

This year the conference met May 2-4 at the newly restored Trinity Cathedral in Miami. Lindstrom told of how downtown Oklahoma City had 33 churches when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. All but three churches have remained.

”Thank God, St. Paul’s is one of them,” Lindstrom said. “That’s where the cathedral needs to be.”

Cathedral deans traveled from as far away as Alberta, Honolulu, and Jerusalem to attend the conference.

The Very Rev. John Downey, dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie, Pennsylvania, and co-chairman of the North American Cathedral Deans Conference, said the annual gathering has occurred since the early 1950s, when the Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre, Jr., invited his colleagues to Washington National Cathedral. The Very Rev. James Pike, as dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, then invited the group to New York.

“The Cathedral idea is relatively young in the Episcopal Church,” former TLC editor David Kalvelage writes in Cathedrals of the Episcopal Church in the USA.

Ground was broken for the Cathedral of our Merciful Saviour in Faribault, Minnesota, in 1862. St. Paul’s in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was designated a cathedral fin 1876. On the East Coast, ground was broken for the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City in 1877.

Most cathedrals in the United States began as parish churches in the center city. Such was the case with Trinity, financed by Julia Tuttle Miami, the mother of Miami, who invited Henry Flagler to expand his railroad to Dade County. Trinity was designated as a cathedral by the Rt. Rev. James Duncan.

When the Very Rev. Douglas McCaleb became Trinity’s dean on Advent Sunday 2005 he inherited an 80-year-old downtown edifice that had been ravaged by four hurricanes in the previous two years.

While American cathedrals usually serve as parish churches, Kalvelage writes that with their British forerunners they are the sites of diverse ministry, including:

  • Daily prayer and Eucharist
  • Pilgrimage
  • Hospitality
  • The arts
  • Ecumenism and ministry for the surrounding community

These themes emerged in the presentations and panel discussions of the gathering.

The Rev. Patrick Malloy, professor of liturgics at General Theological Seminary who has worked as a licensed general contractor, reflected on the ministry of the cathedral as a tool of evangelism and a “visual proclamation of the Gospel. “Cathedrals reflect who we are and what we believe,” he said. “We are just this side of a renewed Anglo-Catholic movement.”

The Rev. Bob Libby

Image by the Diocese of Southeast Florida [Flickr album]


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