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Washington National Cathedral hosts Jumu’ah: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, The Episcopal Church, Washington.
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Washington’s National Cathedral played host to a media event last week, holding its first Islamic prayer service in cooperation with Washington-area Muslim groups. The invitation only Friday prayer service was held in the Cathedral’s north transept, a part of the cathedral where there are no Christian symbols. Following the recitation of the prayers, the audience, segregated into areas for men and women listed to Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim who serves as South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Rasool stated Muslims “come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world. The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.” The cathedral was closed to visitors on Friday morning save for the press and Muslim invitees, but one woman stood during the service and objected to the proceedings, stating “America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was escorted from the building and the service continued. Since 1980 the cathedral has played host to inter-faith services, but Friday’s 11:30 service was the first Muslim ceremony held in the cathedral, which prides itself on its avant garde approach to religious and social issues.

Where’s the religion at Washington’s National Cathedral?: Get Religion, January 16, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, The Episcopal Church, Washington.
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The financial difficulties facing the Washington National Cathedral were the subject of a local news item in the Washington Post this week.

The basic story line is valid: “cathedral short of cash seeks creative ways to generate income.” But as  GetReligion editor tmatt observed in an an impromptu story conference, this piece had journalistic “holes you can drive a ’60s VW Microbus through… .”

The few errors in Anglican polity found in the story would likely distress only the perpetually aggrieved, but the real difficulty is that the Post declined to ask or explore the question: “why?”

It assumes the worldview of the liberal wing of mainline churches, making this the measure of all things religious. By not asking “why” this story could just as well be written about the troubles facing the local symphony orchestra or art museum.

I was hesitant in taking this story, however, as my theological sympathies are not with the cathedral’s leadership. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Diocese of Washington’s cathedral, last year told the Post he was a “non-theistic Christian.” The Aug 1, 2013 story in the Style section penned by Sally Quinn quoted him as saying:

Jesus doesn’t use the word God very much,” he says. “He talks about his Father.”

Hall explains: “Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes. .?.?. He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being. Jesus didn’t try to convert. He just had people at his table.”

It is the glory, or the curse, of Anglicanism that the ranks of its clergy contain men and women who think this way — and others who see this as nonsense.

The divide is not merely local or new — in 2009 I interviewed the Argentine leader of the Anglican churches in southern South America and he told me that meaningful debate between left and right was not possible. He and his conservative colleagues from Africa, India and Asia believed the leader of the American Episcopal church was “not a Christian” as they understood the term.

The disdain does not go one way. Liberal American and English Anglicans have described the theological and intellectual worldview of their third world confreres as being one step above witchcraft.

The split between left and right, liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists — none of these terms adequately describes the combatants — did not arise in 2003 with the election of a “gay” bishop in the Episcopal Church. While there have always been factions within the Anglican world for centuries — high/low, Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic — the latest Anglican wars began in the 30s and hit their stride in the 60s.

Fights over women clergy, premarital sex, abortion, euthanasia, contraception/family planning, divorce and remarriage, pacifism, the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, Vietnam and the civil rights movement and its various permutations of race, gender, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation have been debated ever since.

The temptation I faced was to cloak my criticisms of the underlying issues in the story with the cover of discussing proper journalism and write about bad religion rather than bad journalism. Hence, my reluctance to jump on this story.

What then is the GetReligion angle? What holes are there in this story through which I may drive my VW microbus? The lede states:

When Congress authorized the creation of Washington National Cathedral in 1893, it envisioned a national spiritual home. Decades later, it became a setting for presidential funerals, sermons by the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and worship services for epic national tragedies such as Newtown and Sept. 11.

But would it have thought of tai chi and yoga mats?

The article describes a program of events and activities designed to bring people into the cathedral. The story then moves to context:

As mellow as it all sounds, the week-long public program — “Seeing Deeper” — is part of a highly orchestrated drive by the nation’s second-largest cathedral to remake itself and survive in an era when religious institutions are struggling. And what’s more institutional than a huge cathedral?

Washington National Cathedral, one of the Episcopal Church’s three major U.S. cathedrals, was already forced to halve its $27 million budget in the mid-2000s because of falling revenue before an earthquake in 2011 caused damage tallying an additional $26 million. Although it is now in the black, it must raise its roughly $13 million annual operating budget as well as the remaining $19 million for earthquake repairs.

And then moves to a discussion of the dean’s plans to raise income and attendance and to be a voice for progressive values in Washington.

What is missing from this story, though, is a nod to the reasons for the cash shortfall — apart from the occasional earthquake and economic downturn.

The article makes this assertion:

Experts say cathedrals across Europe and the United States have had to remake themselves as religious affiliation has become much looser and financial models built on membership have broken down.

But we do not hear from the experts. Is this true for all cathedrals, or just Episcopal ones? How is the Catholic cathedral in Washington doing? How are other Episcopal cathedrals handling the new faith environment Dean Hall describes in the piece? These questions should have been raised, or at least acknowledged.

Where are the facts and figures about the Washington National Cathedral’s attendance and income? They are easily found on the national Episcopal Church’s website. It reports “pledge and plate income”, the amount of money the cathedral (whose formal name is the Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul) collected from its parishioners has grown from $400,000 p.a. in 2002 to $2 million in $2012.

At the same time Sunday attendance grew over the last ten years. The figures for Dean Hall’s first year in office have not been published, but should not the story have spoken to these issues.

And, have the Anglican wars played a part in the cathedral’s financial problems? While the amount of money generated by those worshiping on site has grown, giving to support the cathedral from the wider Episcopal world has fallen off. Why?  The article states fundraising was easier for the cathedral when it sought to finish construction — an 82 year building campaign.

Could the cathedral’s whole-hearted adoption of the progressive religious and political agenda have anything to do with the little old ladies in Alabama cutting back on their gifts? The article does not ask this question.

As written, the article could have described the problems facing any graying urban institution. Swap out the names and you could recycle this as a story about an art museum, library, orchestra, ballet or other worthy cultural institution. Perhaps the real story here is that the Washington National Cathedral is not seen as a religious institution by the Post but as a temple of ethical culture?

First printed at Get Religion.

Washington National Cathedral chapels vandalized: The Church of England Newspaper, August 11, 2013 p 6. August 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church, Washington.
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A Chinese tourist was arrested last week by police in Washington for allegedly vandalizing two chapels in Washington’s National Cathedral. Jia M. Tian (58) was taken into custody after police found her in the cathedral on 29 July 2013 carrying a can of green paint and wearing paint-flecked clothing shortly after green paint was poured over woodwork in the Children’s Chapel and over the organ in the Bethlehem Chapel, the site of the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson.

Police are also questioning Ms. Tian, a Chinese national traveling on an expired U.S. visa, for green paint vandalism near the Smithsonian Castle, the Martin Luther statue at Thomas Circle in Northwest and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Cathedral’s newsletter reported that within twenty four hours, conservators had removed most of the green paint from the gilt wooden reredos in Children’s Chapel. Damage in Bethlehem Chapel centered on the pipe organ façade with paint damaging the keyboard, surrounding wood paneling, and the floor.

It stated “a team of conservators is busy carefully removing the paint while avoiding damage to the delicate wooden surfaces. Although the pipes themselves cleaned easily, the grain of the wood has soaked up the paint. Full removal will be slower and more painstaking than expected, likely resulting in higher restoration costs.”

America says farewell to Neil Armstrong: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 7. September 24, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Washington.
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The Space Window at Washington’s National Cathedral

America honored the first man to walk on the moon this week, with a memorial service for Neil Armstrong at Washington’s National Cathedral on 13 Sept 2012.

Neil Armstrong “embodied all that is good and all that is great about America,” said Apollo 17 mission commander and last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan. He “can now finally put out [his] hand and touch the face of God,” Cernan told the cathedral congregation during the service.

Armstrong, who died on 25 August 2012 following heart surgery, was buried at sea on 14 Sept. On 29 July 1969, Armstrong and co-pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin of Apollo 11 landed on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Tranquility, becoming the first men to walk on the moon.

Michael Collins who remained in lunar orbit on Apollo 11 while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon, led prayers during the service with the Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde presiding. He thanked God “for your servant Neil Armstrong, who with courage and humility first set foot upon the moon. Following his example, save us from arrogance, lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you; and by the grace of your Holy Spirit, protect our travels beyond the reaches of the earth, that we may glory ever more in the wonder of your creation.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

$25 million bill for Washington’s National Cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 7. October 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Washington.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Washington’s National Cathedral will need more than $25 million to repair the damage sustained in the 23 August earthquake, but will reopen in time for the 12 November consecration of the diocese’s new bishop, Dr Mariann Budde.

In a statement released on 4 October, the cathedral estimated the cost of repairs to be in the “tens of millions of dollars” and announced the launch of an “aggressive fundraising effort to raise at least $25 million to offset the costs of the early restoration work and to help support its operations through the end of 2012.”

“The short-term priorities are around stabilizing the building, re-opening the Cathedral, and continuing its operations and mission. The overall restoration of the Cathedral is expected to take numerous years, and the effort will seek contributions large and small from across the country,” a statement published on the cathedral’s website said.

Washington Bishop John Chane, who is serving as the cathedral’s interim dean, said “reopening is only the first step down a long path toward restoring the Cathedral to its previous state. We will reach the end of that path only through the support of this community and people across the nation.”

Engineers have determined the central and west front towers of the cathedral must be stabilized, and work has begun placing steel beams weighing a total of 70 tons in the central tower.

“The Cathedral has been entrusted to us as an important resource and national treasure to serve as the spiritual home for the nation,” said the Rev James Wind, chairman of the cathedral chapter.

“We take that trust very seriously and will do everything necessary to restore the building to the condition our national community of supporters has come to expect,” Dr Wind said.

Washington hit by earthquake: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 23, 2011 August 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Washington.
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The pinnacles atop Washington's National Cathedral central tower were damaged in Tuesday's earthquake. Photo tweeted by Jennifer Walker

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake has rocked the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, shaking buildings from Georgia to Massachusetts.  The Pentagon and other government offices in Washington were evacuated following the earthquake, while the central tower of Washington’s National Cathedral has been badly damaged.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck at 17:51:04 UTC (1:51 pm local time) on Tuesday, Aug 23.  The epicenter of the quake was located near Mineral, Virginia, approximately 84 miles south west of Washington, DC.

Reports of the earthquake quickly appeared on the internet.  The Pentagon, Washington’s public monuments and parts of the Capitol were evacuated.  Three of the four pinnacles on the central tower of Washington’s National Cathedral have been damaged, according to reports tweeted by onlookers.  The cathedrals flying buttresses have cracked in several places, and one tweet reports the central tower is leaning to one side.

The cathedral’s website reports the building has been evacuated and closed to visitors pending a structural examination.

Office workers from afar afield as New York City, Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia evacuated high rise buildings when the quake hit.  Airports across the east coast have closed, however no injuries or deaths have been reported so far.

Tuesday’s earthquake comes as the Eastern Seaboard prepares for the landfall of Hurricane Irene, a category 3 storm that has lashed the Bahamas and is expected to make landfall on the US mainland on Aug 25.