One year ago, when a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked the east coast of the United States, it did unprecedented damage to major landmarks and to our National Cathedral in particular. An even more significant event for Washington will occur this November 6, when the American people decide who will lead us as president for the next four years. In our own country, as across the globe, the fault lines of religion and culture remain far from quiet. With each of these major turning points covered in these pages, “seismic shifts” might well be the theme for this issue of Cathedral Age.
Major shifts lie ahead, but the outlook is far from bleak. For as serious as they are, the challenges that lie ahead are being faced with both agility and resolve. Following a 2010 gathering at the National Cathedral, a landmark second Christian-Muslim summit held in Beirut this summer resulted in a committed plan of action. After a year of detailed inspection, careful stabilization, and long-range planning, the Cathedral has entered a new phase of restoration—with exciting news of a major $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. leading the way to restoring $20 million of earthquake damage. Nationally important advocates for the cause of courage and understanding have been recently honored and uplifted at this spiritual home for the nation, from the humble ministry of Chuck Colson to the continuing role of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Last but not least, we are extremely honored that both candidates for the coming presidential election agreed to be interviewed for this issue’s “Faith in America” section.
Excerpts reprinted from Calvin Coolidge’s 1928 address at the Cathedral offer a potent reminder that, from the days of William McKinley onward, U.S. presidents have expressed active interest in faith and in the work of the National Cathedral. And as an essay by our Interim Dean Frank Wade points out, President Obama and Governor Romney are no different; their reflections here provide important insight into a major factor that has shaped them and will continue to guide their future work. “The principles of faith lie behind the priorities we set and the manner in which we work to fulfill them,” Wade notes. “To pretend that the faith of our leaders is not a matter of interest to the electorate is an act of denial with substantial consequences.” As such, Wade asks us to acknowledge faith’s power openly—and also to reclaim it as a positive force, despite its often-divisive public role.
All of us who have read Frank Wade’s Cathedral Age essays or have heard him preach from the Cathedral’s historic Canterbury Pulpit can appreciate the eloquence, wisdom, and deeply faithful leadership that have distinguished his tenure as interim dean as well as his decades of service in ministry. Yet as Wade’s Cathedral term concludes, it is my great pleasure as newly elected chair of the Cathedral Chapter to welcome the Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall as tenth dean of Washington National Cathedral. Hall’s work begins October 1. For him, the Cathedral is “an architectural treasure and a living symbol of worship and ministry in the nation’s capital.” He has expressed his eagerness for working with the Cathedral community and friends nationwide in the search to “strengthen our historic ministries and imagine and enact new ones.”
Hall’s role will not be easy, as he comes to the Cathedral and to its national service at a time of many challenges—but this ordained minister for more than 35 years is strengthened by faith and by proven leadership as a former seminary dean and president. I know that I speak for all of the Cathedral community, along with the search committee and those who serve with me on the Cathedral Chapter, in looking forward to an outgoing and energetic ministry sure to kindle hearts and put wind in many sails.