And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another… (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Once again it was my privilege and my pleasure to attend the annual gathering of the North American Deans’ Conference. This year we met in Miami, Florida at Trinity Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida (http://www.trinitymiami.org/). Our host was The Very Rev. Doug McCaleb, and a more gracious host we could not have had. Let me share with you a few words directly from Doug:
“Our focus will be on restoration and preservation. The reality is that many of us have big, old buildings, some rarely filled to capacity. What is their purpose and mission in the 21st century? How do we maintain them? Where do we find the funds to keep them going? What can they contribute to the surrounding community? There will be lively discussions and presentations, and plenty of time for fellowship. We will begin as usual with Evensong on Thursday night, and conclude with a festive Eucharist on Sunday.”
“We come from all over the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, and indeed from cathedrals around the Anglican Communion. We represent all sizes of congregations and all theological perspectives. We share a mission of guarding the ‘mother church’ of our respective dioceses, and the conversation around common issues and challenges is invaluable.”
It was an excellent gathering, and I appreciate very much the opportunity of participating in it. The Cathedral, with some help from the Bishop, pays for my participation and I am very grateful to you. Thank you.
The gathering was entitled, tongue firmly in cheek: C.S.I. Miami (Cathedral Strategic Initiative). This year’s conference included a number of exhibitors. White Chapel Bell Foundry from London, UK, was there, for instance, to share information about the work they have been doing with churches since 1570. Church Restoration Group from Pittsburgh, PA, was there; they are leaders in the field of disaster recovery, preservation, and sacred art conservation.
Of special interest was a presentation by Partners for Sacred Places (‘At the intersection of heritage, faith, and community’, http://www.sacredplaces.org/ ) which had suggestions as to how a congregation can connect with other organizations and social services to enhance a parish’s place in community life and potentially generate fundraising opportunities.
Our host Cathedral has just come through a six year, seven million dollar rebuilding after severe hurricane damage, so they were well-placed to host and lead us in conversation around TLC for the gifts of buildings which have been entrusted to our care. They will rededicate their Cathedral this Sunday, May 18th. We give thanks to God with them for this wonderful sign of trust and hope, and faith in God’s faithfulness.
Friday was a full day, with speakers in the morning and a panel in the afternoon; all combined to help us think together about the mission and ministry of cathedrals in the 21st century. The discussion was rich: How do we, as deans and doorkeepers of grand old buildings, attend to our parish, assist in our neighbourhood, and be a centre of our community? So there was much formal conversation around these matters, but also wonderful informal dialogue, conversation and reflection on these issues.
This year’s focus overall was on restoration. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy from General Theological Seminary (Episcopal Church, New York) shared his thoughts on the theological underpinnings of why we need to preserve our sacred landmarks, and Mr. Robert Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places, discussed the public value of our buildings and how they contribute to the enriching of our communities. We also had a panel of deans who have undergone restoration/preservation/building programs share about their experiences. The moderator was the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, who shared, for instance, how they discovered after the earthquake that, with their one hundred million dollar insurance policy, they were grossly underinsured!
We enjoyed a wonderful pre-dinner conversation on the patio of the Cathedral, with the Bishop present (he is originally from Cuba) and even dancing with his wife to the live music. Doug had arranged to have a pair of live pink flamingos in the fountain. Wow, what hospitality! Then we went into the church and enjoyed a beautiful meal set up in the Cathedral nave itself, a lovely foretaste of the Eucharist we shared there a couple days later on Sunday morning with the whole parish community.
Saturday was more relaxed, with our annual ‘business’ meeting, usually very short, this time being no exception. The Dean of Jerusalem, The Very Rev. Hosam Naoum, was with us for the second year, straight from the UK where he had just been with the Deans of the Church of England. He and TVR Peter Eaton (Denver, CO) gave a presentation on New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel, a fresh congregational curriculum for a deeper understanding of Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. There was more good conversation around that, and finally a discussion about our upcoming meetings.
The Deans were last in Jerusalem in 2004; many have moved on since then, many of us are new, including the young Dean of Jerusalem himself. We decided this year (discussed it also last year) that we will indeed meet ‘next year in Jerusalem’.
I am looking forward to this very much, particularly in light of our Primate’s call into partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (http://www.j-diocese.org/), which includes Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Our Primate, along with the Council of General Synod, has named June 1st as Jerusalem Sunday. Look for more details coming soon, especially on Sunday, the 1st of June!
I could share more with you, but I will say, once more, thank you very much for encouraging me and supporting in my participation in the Deans’ Conference, including attendance at the annual gathering. For all of this, including all of you, most especially, I say also,
Thanks be to God!