Hello St Paul’s,
It’s an understatement to say that we are living in anxious times. I’m sure that like me, you could really use some good news. A couple of weeks ago I was in a sort of COVID slump, feeling quite low about the state of the world, including national politics, the pandemic, the economy, and the future of the church. Thank goodness for our cathedral family and the support that we offer each other at times like this. When we gathered for Friday fellowship last week the news of the death of Justice Ginsburg was breaking, and we prayed together as we gave thanks for her life.
When I recently received a gloomy financial forecast for the cathedral, I was pulled out of my sky-is-falling mood by hope-filled and faithful colleagues. As a rule I’m pretty good at making lemonade out of lemons and goodness knows there have been plenty of lemons this year. I cannot tell you when we will once again hold regular services in the cathedral, and I hope you will continue to be patient as a faith community in exile as we approach the turn of the year. For nearly seven months now you have all been amazingly loyal and devoted to our communal life. It means a great deal to me and to all our staff when you let us know that our efforts to hold this parish family together are appreciated.
So let’s make some lemonade. First, the construction at Sixth and Olive has continued throughout the pandemic, and in the next few weeks the building will start to rise above ground level. I’ll have more on that next week.
As you know, we have already decided to rent out the Fifth Avenue side of the first floor to a tenant; the design has been revised and the search for a suitable tenant is under way. Other than the entrance lobby, the rest of that floor will be the much enlarged (about 50% larger) new Guild Room space, which will be divisible into two spaces. And upstairs will be our offices and conference rooms. The new Guild Room will be a beautiful, bright space for concerts, conferences, wedding receptions, and community gatherings.
As we look towards an uncertain future, we must do everything we can to ensure that our buildings support our ministry. This will mean maximizing the flexibility of all our large spaces so that, once community groups are ready to gather again, we can offer spacious rooms that allow for social distancing. With that in mind, not only are we looking to replace the pews in the nave with stackable chairs, but we are also working with an architect to envision a fully accessible and flexible chancel area – this is the area with the choir stalls and altar. It so happens that a leading liturgical architectural firm is based in Banker’s Hill, and thanks to a generous donor we have engaged them to create some concepts for us to consider. Having a nave, chancel, and chapel that are completely accessible and can be transformed relatively easily will open up all kinds of possibilities in the post-COVID world.
You may remember that in early 2019 we sent our good but worn out Steinway concert grand piano off to be rebuilt. The piano is almost ready to be shipped back to us, and once it is reinstalled in the Great Hall we will have an outstanding instrument in a glorious space, ready for recitals and recordings of the highest standard.
Now, it’s one thing to have these lovely spaces and it’s another to find people who are willing to pay to use them. Our cathedral administrator Kathleen Burgess is heading up a task force of parishioners with sales and marketing experience, to create a marketing plan for making the spaces available for rent, with the aim of equipping us to act as soon as we are permitted to host indoor gatherings of any size. I am very grateful to Kathleen and her team for taking on this project to position us for the future, even as we continue to welcome new members and grow in spirit, offering meaningful worship and enriching formation and fellowship activities.
I see more than one glass of lemonade in all this, and I hope you do too. St. Paul’s will rise again from the travails of 2020 and with your support we will be ready for whatever the future holds.
See you on Sunday.
Your sister in Christ,