Dear People of St. Catherine’s,
When I was Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo we were stewards of a beautiful stone gothic national landmark, designed by Richard Upjohn. We had been blessed by prior generations with a generous endowment. We employed a large staff to ensure that buildings were cleaned, documents printed, music prepared and performed, bills paid and the building open every day all year in downtown Buffalo. It was my great privilege to lead this cathedral and its congregation. We were the mother church for the entire diocese, we reached out to downtown Buffalo, we partnered with interfaith communities to advocate for justice and social change. It was an exciting ministry.
Our congregation came downtown from all over the Buffalo area, sometimes from Rochester, even crossing from Canada. We included members of “first families” of Buffalo and an elderly African American grandmother who brought her grandchildren on city buses to sing in our choirs. There were gay couples who were shunned in other parishes. We received Sudanese refugees who were told to look for the Anglican church! There were suburban families, single young adults, marginal street people and unbelievers who found hospitality within our walls.
During my tenure as Dean of St. Paul’s we tried many ministries. Some of them worked well; some bombed! We offered jazz vespers, lunchtime meetings of professionals (lawyers, business executives) to talk about faith and work. We hosted diocesan-wide gatherings of choristers, acolytes, musicians, and clergy. When the war in Iraq was going on, we convened gatherings of people to pray and talk about the war, our feelings, morality, etc. We organized a theater caravan to attend some of the theater offerings in Buffalo and in Canada. We offered study groups of many kinds.
My decade of service at St. Paul’s Cathedral was memorable and gratifying. However, the most difficult challenge of my entire tenure was weaving this incredibly diverse assembly of people into a blessed community, where people treasured each other, in spite of differences, different priorities, and different ways of being Christian, not to say Episcopalian. Our annual budget was about $1 million. Of that, fully a fifth was spent to keep up our national landmark cathedral, repair it, hire sextons to take care of it, heat it and keep it open every day. Some said “what a waste. Do we really need to be open every day?” Another big chunk of our budget was spent on our music program, to maintain our renowned choir of men and boys, our girls choir and adult mixed choir. The choristers were paid small stipends and some said “can’t we do without all that expenditure.” Some people wanted St. Paul’s to be a faux British cathedral. Some wanted us to be “American.” When the Sudanese refugees found us, we tried to include them in our worship. But when they offered drumming in our liturgy some complained that this was not appropriate. We co-founded VOICE Buffalo (like HOPE here in Tampa) to partner with other churches, synagogues and mosques to bring pressure on the City and County to solve problems. Some said “oh this is too political. What are we doing with storefront churches.” You get the point.
I offer this tale not to say that St. Catherine’s is like St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, we also struggle in the “community weaving” task – along with many churches. We have entered an interim time in our life. Our leader has left and in God’s good time we will call a new rector to lead us forward. Let us use this time to rediscover the promise of our baptism, and to hear with fresh ears St. Paul’s counsel to honor all the gifts of the Spirit in the church. St. Catherine’s has been blessed with countless gifts among its members. We are different from each other. We respond to Gods call with different rhythms, different hopes, and different styles. But we need each other, not only for the sake of toleration. We need each other so that we may be blessed by each other. My challenge to you for this interim time is to listen to each other, to receive each other as gifts, to rejoice that we all have a place at the Table.
God has poured abundant gifts upon St. Catherine’s. Let us receive them and be blessed.
With hope and thanksgiving,
THE HOLY EUCHARIST
Sunday 8:00 A.M. Rite I
HOLY EUCHARIST RITE II
Sunday 10:00 A.M.
CONTEMPLATIVE SUNG EVENING PRAYER
Second Thursday of the month at 7:00 p.m.