From Mother Church to Mission Center
“What are the fundamental, make or break, challenges that will determine whether your cathedral thrives or withers as a missional centre?”
Well, now there’s a fine question for us. It came to me along with about fifty other Deans from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church as we gathered in Denver last week for the annual Conference. The question you might want to ask as follow-up would be, “What exactly is a missional centre?” Another fine question for us here, at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in Winnipeg.
The theme for our North American Deans’ Conference this year – my first, and thank you for encouraging me to go – was pertinent, very pertinent for us: “Cathedrals in the 21st Century: From Mother Churches to Mission Centers.” So, are you ready to make the move? We’ve begun, in many ways, but we’ve a long way to go. Will we wither or will we thrive? I know which future God wants for St. John’s; how is it with the rest of us?
What is it God is calling us to do?
Our first evening included Evensong at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral (Dean + plus three other clerics, plus staff of eleven), where the choir led in worship with wonderful music, including, as an anthem, “Rejoice in the Lamb” by Benjamin Britten, text by Christopher Smart. The Bishop of Colorado was the preacher. After Evensong we walked a few blocks to the Governor’s Mansion where both the Mayor of Denver and the Governor of Colorado addressed our group. It was fun to see, or hear, clearly the Mayor’s Baptist roots come through in his address, and the focus was clearly on mission. What is it God is calling us to do?
The opening question above came from the address the next morning of Father Richard Vosko, who has been working with churches and cathedrals for decades in renewal of worship through a theology of architecture. He spoke to us on “The Cathedral Church: Life in Between No More and Not Yet.”
After Richard Vosko we heard from Prof. Richard Schneider, Orthodox Church of America (who actually lives in Toronto, but teaches at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York, along with York University in Toronto, and University of Toronto), on the topic: “Heaven on Earth – Cathedrals in the Orthodox Tradition: What Can They Teach Us?” There was yet a third speaker that Friday afternoon, a young Roman Catholic man, married with children, who lives in a neo-monastic community in Camden, New Jersey. He has co-written one book, “Jesus for President” and has another one coming out this fall on his journey back into the church, all the way into life among the poor and the wretched of Camden, “From Willow Creek to St. Francis.”
The next day we heard from three women, the most well-known of whom is Diana Butler Bass, and has written several interesting books; her latest, out now, is “Christianity After Religion.” It’s definitely worth a look.
In addition to this almost too rich intellectual and spiritual fare, there was some opportunity for conversation with and learning from the vast range of experience among the deans present at the Conference, including a good number of Canadians. Now I understand more than ever why our former Dean, Bob Osborne, recommended this so strongly and why Bishop Don also encouraged me to go. Thanks again for your encouragement and support. I am grateful to God for the experience, and look forward to sharing more of what I have learned.