Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cathedrals -- After

Back from the North American Cathedral Deans Conference in Denver.  And it was a good one.  St. Johns Cathedral in Denver is a large, lively and active place and people. Traditional worship thrives as does a Sunday Evening Liturgy called the Wilderness which goes beyond the (to me) tired and worn out "worship wars" of contemporary vs. traditional.  It seeks to be deeply traditional, but using today's technology and sensibilities.

The speakers were outstanding, ranging from matters of mission, worship, architecture, the traditional Orthodox view of a cathedral, new/urban monasticism, stewardship and funding, and the challenging views of Diana Butler Bass regarding Christianity after Religion.  But in every presentation, one central theme kept coming into focus -- spiritual authenticity.  It wasn't planned, it was just real, and we all know its true -- spiritual authenticity is the longing and challenge of these days, in the church and beyond, for others and for ourselves.

All the things that make many cathedrals hopeful places remain -- resources of places and people that will likely be sustainable and fruitful now and in the future.  But the one thing needful is a challenge and a possibility not just for cathedrals but for all kinds of congregations and all kinds of ways folk are seeking to live lives of faith and meaning.  The one thing needful is about deepening our responsiveness to God at work in our world and in our lives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cathedrals -- Before

Back on track after some time off for a little thing called Holy Week and Easter Week.

Tomorrow we go to the North American Cathedral Deans Conference which meets this year in Denver.  It is actually more than just a "Deans" conference as it fully includes spouses and partners.  A particular gift is the fact that it by definition brings together folks from the U.S.A. and Canada, and often guests from beyond.

In the ruins of Christendom, many cathedrals are doing pretty well.  The steady increase in attendance in the English cathedrals has been widely noted.  And while the experience in North America ranges from cathedrals that are closing to some of the largest congregations, my overall impression is that most of our cathedrals are lively places of worship and mission, blessed with financial and facility resources, with communities large enough to provide a decent congregation, and with a unique role in city and diocese including a certain freedom that comes from not being constituted as part of the political structure of the church (however much cathedral folk may be involved as individuals).  For all of these reasons and more, cathedrals may well weather the storm we are going through and provide both refuge and leadership in the days ahead.  There is some irony in this as what could be more a symbol of Christendom than a cathedral?  Still, in larger and smaller versions around North America, this seems to be so.  It is so in Erie, PA.

We will meet in Denver under the theme "Cathedrals in the 21st Century: From Mother Churches to Mission Centers."  An interesting group of speakers will address the topic, including Diana Butler-Bass.  I will offer some reflections afterwards.