The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope
Transcribed from the audio.
Please pray with me. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our collective hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
I confess that when I was first asked if I would offer a short homily this evening I hesitated. Part of it had to do with my schedule, but the real hesitation was the realization of what in the world did I have to say to a group of people who have volunteered over 1500 years in this Cathedral? I think an important thing for anyone, but particularly a preacher, is to know when you’re in deep water. I mean, seriously, what wisdom, what revelatory thing can I offer to Ruthanna Weber who has volunteered here 70 years? Or Ernest Duckett who has volunteered here 50 years? You heard the gospel lesson with the Lord’s Prayer, and by every measure that I can imagine this group seems to be doing a really good job of bringing God’s kingdom to earth: God’s will being done, here, through you, through your ministry.
So as I continued to get into deeper and deeper water, I finally realized I was asking the wrong question. It wasn’t what do I have to share with you, but what wisdom can we receive from your extraordinary service and wisdom? I knew that what I needed to do was ask a few questions, sit down, and take notes. And so what I’d like to share with you are some reflections from a few of you who were nice enough to share a bit about your experience here at the Cathedral. And I posed three questions:
- How did you first come to volunteer at the Cathedral?
- What’s been most meaningful to you in your service at the Cathedral?
- And finally, what advice would you give to someone who was considering volunteering here?
So, question one: How’d you get here? Well, not surprisingly, there’s a common thread.
“Someone asked me. Someone invited me.”
What was a little bit surprising to me, however, was the thread that it often came during a life transition and sometimes a difficult one: a job loss, a family death, a marriage that was frayed. Something about coming out of the darkness into the light seemed to be a common thread and draw. So in response to question one let me offer some of the following reflections.
“I think I saw this as an opportunity to do something new. My job was eliminated due to reorganizing so I thought of other possibilities. I’ve always loved the Cathedral and had always ended up in the nave during personally stressful times. I always came away with assurance and comfort just from being in this beautiful space.”
“I can’t recall how I got hooked in, but in 2010 I had a direct, life-changing opportunity in working with a Latino Cathedral Scholar who seriously lacked English skills. I worked with him over two years and he ended up winning a four-year college scholarship. He calls me his angel.”
Question two: What’s been most meaningful to you in your service? Well, again, a common thread.
“The friendships made.”
“The opportunity to serve others.”
Nothing surprising in that. In more depth:
“The opportunity to share the Cathedral’s glorious architecture and art—to uplift its daily life as a sacred space of worship and as an instrument for teaching.”
“I think the friendships formed have been most meaningful as well as the spiritual and aesthetic environment and nourishment.”
“I regard my service at the Cathedral as Christian service. I sometimes explain that I’m not the soup kitchen type. When I started volunteering, I realized that this was the first time I’d worked in a church since high school, and it felt right. It still does.”
“How much I enjoy the meet and greet and truly helping people. I realize I may be someone’s only or first contact with the Cathedral so I really do make an effort to be as friendly and helpful as I can be. This job truly brings out the best in me and I love what that’s done for me. I may be giving my time and talents but by serving God in this way I’m also the recipient of God’s gifts. These last three years have been tough for me and my family. My days here each week have literally been a Godsend for me. The fellowship, friendship, and my faith have all deepened, in no small way, by the time I’ve spent here.
Question three: the advice question.
“Come with a joyful thankful heart and a willingness to share generously of time talent, and treasure.”
“Try several activities and volunteer areas and see what you like best. I would have to add that volunteering at the Cathedral has enriched my life immeasurably and multi-dimensionally, and I am so grateful for the wonderful opportunities I’ve had as a result.”
“Just do it. The rewards will appear.”
“If you are somewhere on the faith journey, this is the best place you can spend time. Come in the spirit of giving and you will be blessed beyond measure. It’s been a good fit for me and I do believe God is smiling about it as much as I am.”
Well, I’m confident God is smiling mighty broadly this evening, looking over each one of you and the extraordinary gifts you’ve given and the generosity with which you have given them. In addition to our gathering this evening to honor and thank you, I want to charge you with one more thing. Please continue to invite your friends to be a part of this extraordinary place. You know what you’ve given. You also know what has come to you as a result. You have all been busy about the business of helping this Cathedral live into its mission and its opportunities. Won’t you please invite others to join and be a part as well? Amen.