May 10, 2019: Liberation at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

From Fr. Steven

Reading news stories this past week about the shocking heroism of those two young men, Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo, who sacrificed their lives to save their fellow classmates during two different school shooing incidents, I was reminded of those haunting and unsettling lines from the poet and scholar A. E. Housman:

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.

How else to maintain sanity in the midst of this self-inflicted epidemic of senseless school shootings but through stoic resignation? Stoic resignation at the tragic reality that nothing will likely ever change.

Housman's lines comforted a generation of British subjects devastated by the obscene loss of life in World War I, almost a million dead, and they can be a comfort for us today, when we face the equally obscene reality of school shootings. 

What I find so interesting about our Christian faith, however, is that the Cross is not ultimately another way to help us endure suffering.

Rather, as Kelly Brown Douglas reminded us last Sunday in her talk, the Cross is the means by which Jesus comes to share completely in our suffering. Stripped naked, vulnerable, without any power, Jesus on the Cross experiences the absolute worst of what human life has to offer.

This means that Jesus knows, and shares in, all the suffering you and I have ever experienced in the absolute worst moments of our lives. He knows the pain of losing a parent, or a child; he knows the unimaginable terror of schoolchildren witnessing gun violence in a classroom; he knows the misery of war-time atrocities; he knows the experience of abuse, betrayal, and addiction.

He knows the darkness in the deepest parts of that Hell we have been thrown into, or which we have created for ourselves. He has been there. 

Three days later, however, he broke free and came back into the light. 

And he has promised to do the same for us.

The Rev. Steven Lee

From Marsha and Tim

Last Sunday we were privileged to hear the Reverend William J Barber preach a biblically based social Gospel sermon.  His words were stirring as he called for a moral Pentecost in America.  He ended his sermon with an altar call—something very unusual in an Episcopal church.  (The last time this happened at the Cathedral it was Jesse Jackson who called the people forward. That was at least 30 years ago.)  Many came forward and surrounded the altar and pulpit.  What steps can each of us thus inspired take to realize this moral Pentecost? 

We are pleased to report that the Congregation has funded scholarships to the ACT summer day camp to two children who were chosen based on need.  Vestry member Paula McKenzie is serving ex officio on the ACT board representing the Congregation, and was involved in the selection of the children.  This is another happy use of the funds we raised through the Crafts Fair.

Vestry meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 in Cathedral house.  This month the meeting takes place on Wednesday May 15.  The meetings are open.  Any Congregation member is welcome to attend. 

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day as well as Second Sunday. After the 11 a.m. service, come on over to Cathedral House and enjoy a light lunch and conversation. If a person sitting near you is new to the Cathedral, invite them to come over with you. It’s not that hard to help people feel welcome.    

On Sunday, May 19, the GMHC sponsored AIDS March will once again pass right by the Cathedral grounds on 110th Street.  The Vestry invites you to join a bagpiper and members of the community to cheer the marchers on and hand out Cathedral Rose Window fans.  This year they are “rainbow” colored.  Meet on the corner of 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue at 10:30. Let’s hope for clear weather. 

Stewardship news The vestry approved the implementation of a new version of the membership database system.  It has many features which will become apparent as the months go on.  Using this system, we sent out a quarterly contributions report last week which most of you will have received.  We hope to send the next quarterly report in late July and to send it via email.  Please let us know if there are discrepancies between the report you receive and your own records.  Be aware that donations are recorded in your record as being given on the date they are deposited into the Congregation’s bank account. 

Looking Ahead The Vestry and Congregation committees continue meeting and planning.  Let us pray for our beautiful worship community and everyone who works to strengthen it, including our Vicar, the clergy and lay volunteers.  We are truly blessed. 

Marsha and Tim