It was a bitingly cold January morning, the day after what will remain an historic day in American history. Millions had poured into the District of Columbia to witness the inauguration of the United States’ first African-American president. Now, after a full day of pageantry, parades, oaths of office, and prayers, and after a night of inauguration balls and festivities across the city, the nation awoke to the first full day in office of the new administration, and to the Inaugural Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral.

The nation’s leaders—members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, members of the press, and many more—came together to pray for our country and for its leadership in a time shadowed by grave concerns. The economy was already in a serious recession, and the list of problems facing our country was daunting. And so this Cathedral again lived out its role as the nation’s church, offering a service uniting Americans of many faith traditions in common prayer and support for the leaders who would guide them through this difficult time.

In this issue of Cathedral Age you can catch the spirit of that service. I won’t forget standing in Bethlehem Chapel a few minutes before it began with Bishop Chane, John Shenefield, our chair of Chapter, and our spouses to welcome the new president and first lady. It was a moment both exhilarating and personally moving to welcome these two people who were carrying the hopes and prayers of a nation—and of a world. Even after a night with little sleep, they were filled with energy, warmth, and calm confidence. The service, with its array of religious leaders, its soaring music, and compelling prayers and reflections, provided what seemed to me a fitting beginning to the immense work ahead.

In the ensuing days, the Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage for many who had traveled to Washington. They came to Mount St. Alban by the hundreds each day to light candles of prayer and to write messages of hope that were then recorded for history and projected on the screens in the nave.

Of course, the work of the nation’s cathedral continues in many other forms as well. The two hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth led to special tours of the Lincoln commemorative pieces in the Cathedral and to a magnificent Choral Society concert with actor Sam Waterston paying tribute to our greatest president. I hope you enjoy the thoughtful reflection on Lincoln’s faith in this Age.

And week in, week out, we carry on the essential dialogue between faith and public life. This spring, for example, we address the tragedy of gun violence in America, the many challenges of addressing global climate change, the spiritual meaning of the economic crisis, and the common thread of compassion that runs through the world’s great religions.

Meanwhile we at the Cathedral have been navigating the treacherous waters of the global economic storm. Like everyone else, we have been battered by its severity, and have had to batten down the hatches and secure the masts as the wind and waves buffet our Gothic ship. The paring back of staff and programs thus far has been painful (including a Cathedral Age 25% smaller this time), but it has enabled me to report to you that, even though our ministry is somewhat reduced for the moment, the Cathedral is weathering the storm with confidence, hope, and a readiness to expand our ministries once again as economic conditions improve.

In these uncertain times, we at the Cathedral continue to cling to some essential certainties. One is the urgency of our mission to serve as a spiritual home for the nation, a place of respite and reflection, and of hope and renewal. Another is the continuing support of the larger Cathedral family—National Cathedral Association members and Partners in Mission, regular Cathedral supporters and donors—who make our work possible. And above all, we live in the certainty of the steadfastness of the God who sustains us in times of prosperity and adversity, and who calls us to serve our neighbors and our nation in Christ’s name. Even as the winds blast and the seas surge, of these things we can be certain.