What does it mean to be a Cathedral? More specifically, what does it mean to be a relatively small urban cathedral in a rural state in a changing world? Where is God leading us? In a report called “Bold Imaginings,” the Urban Cathedral Study Group of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington Vermont responded to these questions by asking others. Below are summaries of the first two areas. I will share the remaining areas in the weeks to come. While this work was specific to Vermont, I think you will find it very pertinent to us. The full report can be found here and a video presentation here. Enjoy! I look forward to your thoughts.
I. A Cathedral is a place of “spiritual significance and discovery” “The primary purpose . . . of both parish church and cathedral is to be a place of worship, a place where people gather to celebrate the church’s liturgy through words, music, silence, symbols, and sacramental signs.” Holy Ground: Cathedrals in the Twenty-First Century (2017) Are there ways that the Cathedral can continue to evolve as a “nursery and even laboratory” of Episcopal liturgical practice? How we can remain vibrant as a Christian institution in an increasingly secular society? Could we enhance our status as a “destination church” for visitors from outside of Burlington, even outside the state? Could we become a better-recognized place of spiritual sustenance for seekers who don’t identify as Episcopalian (or even as Christian)?
II. Cathedrals are buildings (that require resources)
The Very Rev. June Osborne, the former Dean of Salisbury Cathedral in England says that cathedrals “operate in many ways as church at its most counter-cultural.” It is the role of a cathedral to “keep alive the rumor of God, whether in the local and regional communities or in the diocese and beyond.” One of the places that such a rumor can flourish is in the cathedral building itself, which, as both a sacred space and common ground, often functions as a significant public building that, in any given week, might have more non-members than members coming through its doors. How can we live more fully into the original vision of the Cathedral as a prominent downtown building? How can the physical plant of the Cathedral be properly maintained to allow for the sustainability of the building for all purposes? If the Cathedral building were to be used for more public events, how would we provide the staff and other resources to direct and manage the use of the space? How might we re-imagine a sustainable funding model for the Cathedral, a funding model that didn’t depend primarily on annual pledges by members of the parish community? How might an alternative funding model leverage the physical resource of our building/property and its location downtown? Even more specifically, should we consider development of our property as a vehicle for funding our mission?