Dean’s Letter: Mixed Feelings

Hello St. Paul’s,

You already know that there’s a lot going on here at the cathedral. We are seeing the completion of the new building, the chancel work is beginning, we have a new outreach and music partnership with Voices of our City, and we are restoring beloved traditions like the St. George’s Day celebration. At the same time we are still taking precautions to protect our people from the COVID virus, we are wondering when and whether to get the second booster, we are anxiously watching the case loads and the emergence of new variants.

In the wider world, the breaking news from the Supreme Court is a deeply upsetting sign of a pushback against civil rights; and the war in Ukraine continues without any clear indication of when or how it might end. And, for all the losses we have endured since the beginning of 2020, we are yet to have an opportunity to fully grieve and share our pain.

For all the positive and exciting things happening at St. Paul’s, I am aware that many of us have mixed reactions to the continuing winds of change. We have waited a long time for the building project to come about, and now that it’s here, we may find that the reality doesn’t match our expectations. No matter how good a change is, it always involves some element of loss. Many of us are suffering from depleted emotional reserves after this long, strange period in our history. Embracing change requires energy, and energy is in short supply with all the uncertainty and anxiety that surrounds us. We can feel worried about the money being spent on the new facility, about the changes to our sacred space, about how we are going to support and grow out ministries, and about the uncertainty of the future.

Rational explanation will only go so far in helping you to feel better, but I’m going to offer a few anyway. I can tell you that the remodeled Chancel will be safer, roomier, brighter, and more flexible than before. I can tell you that the proceeds of our land sale will be invested to provide much the same support of our operating budget as we used to receive for the Park Chateau apartments. I can tell you that the maintenance fees we will pay will be covered by the rent from the commercial tenant, yet to be confirmed, in the 5th Avenue space. I can tell you that the tenant improvements and furnishing of our new space are coming in under budget and that we have secured top of the line, durable furnishings for bargain-basement prices. I can tell you that we are preparing to resume Showers of Blessing in their fullness once we regain access to the former clergy parking lot. I can tell you that we have budgeted for an additional sexton to help us manage the new space, and that we have identified the right person for the job. Finally, I can tell you that we are making an investment in our future that will ensure sustainability for St. Paul’s for years to come, and that has been the motivation for all the changes.

All of these facts are true, but they don’t really help how we feel, because rational argument is processed in a different part of the brain than emotional reaction. So how do we deal with all the mixed feelings? One approach might be to focus on the essentials of our faith: to hold tight to the love of God, the comfort of the sacraments, and the warmth of our cathedral community. Hold tight to Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

It’s OK to feel sad about the changes and uncertain about the future; give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel, but try to be aware of the root causes of your feelings so that your response can be directed appropriately. I encourage you to seek out a trusted friend if you need to vent – or talk to one of the clergy. We are all going through this together!

Later this week we will celebrate the feast of St. Julian of Norwich, an Englishwoman of the 14th century who wrote about her incredible visions of God’s love. Her most famous saying is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Let that be our motto in the weeks ahead.

See you on Sunday.

Your sister in Christ,

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6 thoughts on “Dean’s Letter: Mixed Feelings”

  1. Thank you, Penny for your excellent review of what is happening with our magnificent Cathedral and its ministry.

  2. Do I Have it Right
    Let me see if I have this Right: The same people who sighted “my body, my choice”, as a US Constitutional Right to not protect themselves and their fellow citizens from a deadly pandemic
    • Are the same people against women’s right to have control over their bodies?
    • Are the same people who commit the majority of rapes and other assaults against women’s bodies?
    • Are the same people against universal healthcare even at the most basic levels of care?
    • Are the same people against universal childcare despite the economy’s dependence on women in the work force?
    • Are the same people against a universal living wage despite the rising cost of working to support a family?
    • Are the same people again government support of families who have no or limited access to basic healthcare, childcare, living wage jobs, healthy housing and education?

    The concept of “my body, my choice” exists in a civilized, constitutional bound society only as long as respect of others and responsibility to all are present and practiced.
    May 5, 2022

  3. Thank you Dean Penny for your letter. Stella and I happen to be separated and isolated to individual staterooms on a cruise ship because we have both tested positive for C-19. While this is an unfortunate turn of events for us, and is a disappointment, we are using this experience as an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. We are both OK, with mild symptoms, which shows that vaccinations and booster work. Nothing but a mild cold. So, lucky us. However, we happened to meet a refugee family from Ukraine while we were on a shore tour in Florence, and when one steps back, our personal “situation” seems trivial by comparison. The lesson is this: we will all face the time of trial. It is up to us, as individuals, to deal with what is in front of you and come to terms with it. We can react by being a 3 year old crybaby who didn’t get the ice cream we wanted for dessert, or we can show our courage and character, not blaming others or circumstances that we can’t control, but making the choice to accept what is, change what we can, and know the difference. (I didn’t make that up.) We have the power to decide whether to be happy and grateful for what we have, or we can be sad and angry. For those choose to be happy and grateful, that is a blessing. For those who choose to be sad and angry, that is their curse. And I pity them. Following Christ teaches us the humility and that courage we need to face this uncertain and turbulent time we find ourselves in, and in that I take solace and peace. Stella and I are blessed beyond belief and we give our sincere and humble thanks. Lucky us, in so many ways, and we will never take that for granted.


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