Dean Letter: St. Paul’s an Oral History (Part 3)

This is a transcript of part of an interview between the Very Rev. James E. Carroll, first Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Rev. Dick Anderson, in 2017.

Jim Carroll:     Dr. Cutting: do you remember him? Do you have any memory of 8th and C?

Dick Anderson:           No.

Jim:     Well, he was a superb preacher. And I liked to go when he was preaching. And not to say the others weren’t okay. But as a growing, I was a boy of 15 or 16. And I began to think about ordination. And it was when I saw him preside at the late communion service one Sunday in procession, wearing the white chasuble in the heat of the summer that I said to myself, I can do that. So that was something. Then I forgot about it, and then it came back up again with Howard Davis. And I began to be deliberate in trying to prepare myself for seminary life.

 My relationship with St. Paul’s existed through the years. And when Harold left, someone said, take a look at Jim Carroll: he came out of St. Paul’s. He’s the rector in Long Beach. And Mike Gonzalez said, Well, we need an experienced clergyman and so on. So that’s when the canon of the cathedral, what was his name: he became Rector.

Dick:   You were Rector about four years, weren’t you, or five years or something and then became Dean.

Jim:     I was Rector by title ’78 to ’85, so six and a half years. And we were functioning as a cathedral, de jure but not de facto. And then we went into the process very carefully, appointed, Bishop Morton appointed a committee from the diocese and from the parish to meet quarterly or so to ask what we were trying to build, and they’d wanted to make sure it was carefully done. We changed our articles of incorporation in Sacramento. So we were genuinely… most cathedrals, as you know, in the United States and our American parish churches are elevated. But St. Paul’s is a little different. It was reincorporated.

And, back to being called here, and I expressed an interest when it was vacant again, I’m trying to remember who was Rector, and it wasn’t workable then. And then Bob Wolterstorff called me; he was at a meeting in Chicago. And Bob was on the board of trustees of Seabury Western [Seminary] and the parish was vacant again. And that’s when George Ross was one hankering after it, but he had not been offered. And Bob said, Would you be interested? I said, No, I’ve only been here a couple of years. I can’t just run back to San Diego. Then the next time, in 1978, when George left, he was only Rector for four years and went home to Japan or wherever, and he was a good friend. He was at Seabury Western when I was. Then something clicked. There was a reason to leave Chicago and go back home. Some people say you cannot go home. And I said, Oh yes you can, if it works.

Dick:   You had been six or seven years at St. James [Cathedral, Chicago], hadn’t you?

Jim:     Yes, six and a half years. Oh, I could have stayed there till retirement. Chicago, I loved my Bishop, Jim Montgomery, and different elements. The mystery of vocation is understood by human relationships, families where they are. I knew that my oldest son was going to be in college in the West; he applied to two or three; there would have been a good reason to move west.

I had been up for Bishop in Northern California in 1977. And I was elected by the laity. And the clergy didn’t go along because they did not like Clarence Hayden their bishop, who obviously was favoring me So I didn’t get Northern California, which was just as well. I’d rather live in San Diego than Sacramento. And if I could have told some of the story to the electing body here, they might have elected me, but I didn’t. I was just a candidate like others. But the election here was, was flawed by alcohol, if you can believe it, drinking between ballots. We went for 22 ballots, and called a postponement for the following Saturday, when another 22; out of sheer exhaustion, Brinkley [Morton] was elected. I had been elected by the clergy here, first time, but they were just playing games.

And so I have a love relationship and a troubled relationship with my life here. But once I became Rector, I felt that a new thrust was given to me; I was the oldest Rector they had ever elected. I was 49 or 50. And Harold [Robinson] was young; Rankin Barnes was young. all these; Canon Barnes – his father was Rector; they were all in their 30s and 40s. It was interesting. So all that must have been a divine plan to prepare me for where I am now.

Dick:   Well, that’s an old man – 49!

Jim: I remember my 50th birthday was a big deal here. They hadn’t had a rector who was 50 because they went elsewhere. So from our first walk through the doors at 8th and C, to my final official walk out the door in 1994, it’s been up and down. The most rewarding parish I have ever served. And the most troubling parish also.

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2 thoughts on “Dean Letter: St. Paul’s an Oral History (Part 3)”

  1. While this is a relatively old interview, I appreciated listening to it. Jim came to a parish that had been through a lot in the preceding years after Bishop Robinson left. Jim had a tough time mending wounds and putting a parish back together. Many people left after the Bishop left and we went through several rectors. I’d like to think that God will say to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

  2. Dear Dean Carroll,

    You made me feel welcome from the first minute I walked into the Cathedral. I had left the Episcopal Church many years previously (not St Paul’s, but a parish in another state). The first sermon I heard you deliver was on the differences between evangelical churches (my husband Cecil’s background) and liturgical churches (my shorthand, not Dean Carroll’s) Cecil and I were both awestruck and dumbstruck. It led to many discussions at home and eventually led to us to coming back to the Cathedral and making it our spiritual home for many years.
    With fondest regards,


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