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Although the Cathedral building itself has been closed following the August 23 earthquake, its worship life continued through the Cathedral clergy and worshiping community—and outstanding offers of hospitality from the local community.
Led by the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, vicar, the congregation consists of more than 1,000 individuals who call the Cathedral their personal spiritual home. Few if any buildings available on the Cathedral grounds can house a body of worshipers this large without significant advance notice, and few if any local churches can accommodate such a sizable group on Sunday morning. Washington Hebrew Congregation, a synagogue not far from the Cathedral, provided an ideal solution. Washington Hebrew Congregation is led by Rabbi Bruce Lustig, a longstanding Cathedral friend. Rabbi Lustig served as a leading “first responder” for the Washington-area Jewish Community following 9/11, established the very first Abrahamic Summit in Washington, and sits as a founding member of the Abrahamic Roundtable housed at the Cathedral.
The Cathedral congregation met at Washington Hebrew Congregation on four occasions: August 27, September 4, September 11, and September 18. Before being postponed by the threat of Hurricane Irene, August 27 was originally intended to be the dedication date for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial; an interfaith service that would have been held at the Cathedral as part of the dedication weekend was moved to the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In her sermon the following day, Vicar Jan Naylor Cope focused on the inspiration that she drew from Dr. King:
We have a legacy, we have a call and a purpose. We’re also going to have some challenging days ahead. But like Martin Luther King, our faith and our determination are what ground us. And I know that we are prepared to be steady and steadfast, working together to meet those challenges, to shore back up our beloved Cathedral to be the spiritual home for the nation. We have important work to do, important questions to raise and address: elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, we will work together.
The larger portion of our foundation stone is rock that was quarried in Bethlehem, the place where our Lord and Savior was born, and walked, and moved, and had his being. Embedded in that stone is American granite, which for me symbolizes our grit and determination as Americans to stand tall, to stand steady, and move forward—and do what we need to do, undergirded by the light of Christ, to shine forth to a broken and hurting world.
Sunday, September 11, marked the final day of A Call to Compassion—the Cathedral’s three-day commemoration of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Washington Hebrew Congregation hosted the Cathedral’s interfaith prayer vigil on the morning of September 11, a special and very fitting Sunday Forum on compassion with author Karen Armstrong, and the Cathedral’s commemorative service of Holy Eucharist. A full feature detailing the events that weekend will appear in the next issue of Cathedral Age.
Offers of assistance continue to pour in from the community. Thanks to the hospitality of the National Cathedral School for Girls, Cathedral worship services have been transferred to the Agnes Cochran Underwood Athletic Center at NCS since Sunday, September 25; worship will take place there all subsequent Sundays before reopening.