Dear St. Paul’s family,
In any institution decisions have to be made by someone. So, how do we make decisions in a community like St. Paul’s Cathedral? The congregation elects Chapter members to take this responsibility on their behalf. The responsibility includes the creation of a budget and the responsible stewardship of resources. Because we are a large church we also have senior staff who are entrusted with many of the operational and programmatic decisions: this adds a layer to the decision-making process. Chapter and staff work to gather feedback from the congregation before we finalize our decisions. There are many voices in this large community, and we want to hear them all so that we can make the best decision for everyone.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the process is to give you an example. In December a parishioner who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness wanted to make a difference in this community with the time he has left, and generously offered a gift of a chancel cross. They named a generous amount of money for the creation and installation of the cross and asked for a fairly short timeline. This would be a sculpted, probably wooden image of the risen Christ, either with or without a cross behind him. As a number of people have commented over the years that the present cross is too small for the space, we agreed that a larger image, maybe life-size, would be desirable.
My first step after our meeting was to do some research into the origins of the existing cross: who gave it, is that person still with us, how was it chosen? After an enlightening conversation with Dean Emeritus Jim Carroll, I brought the idea to an executive staff meeting and asked for initial thoughts. There was some discussion about the emotional impact of changing the cross leading to consensus, given the history, that it was a change that might be welcomed by the congregation. I then included it in my monthly report to Chapter and received support for the idea. My next step was to appoint a task force, chaired by Jen Jow and including our Arts committee, to research possible designs and local artists. A number of possible design concepts, along with some thoughts on what would best fit our space and our community, were circulated to the committee and executive staff, and we narrowed down the choices.
When Jen reported that a potential artistic team needed funds to create a design and do technical analysis, I went back to the donor and requested an advance donation, which was readily given. The artistic team created scale models of possible designs and also a full-size cardboard cutout for scale comparisons. The scale models were shared with the congregation on Sunday March 31, after one of my letters introduced the project to the congregation, and we invited feedback to aid our discernment. We are also arranging to put the cardboard cutout up for an hour or so, so we can see the scale, take pictures, and adjust the design as necessary. Once we have discerned the best choice of design and Chapter has approved it, I will check in with the donor again (who has been receiving regular progress reports) to arrange for the remaining funds to be transferred, and we will commission the artistic team to create the cross. Upon completion, the image will be introduced to the congregation before being installed and blessed.
While every initiative and proposed change has its own unique progression, I hope this description conveys our emphasis on checks and balances, sensitivity to the desires of the donor, congregational engagement and responsible stewardship of resources.
Your sister in Christ,
|Initial models for the chancel cross|