May 17, 2019: Measuring Up at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

From Fr. Steven

I have always thought I.M. Pei was a good person, not just a great architect. I didn't know him personally, but I came to this conclusion while watching a documentary called My Architect, which is about a different architect, Louis Kahn. The documentary is directed by Louis Kahn's son, Nathaniel Kahn.

On one level, the documentary is about a son wrestling with his father's verycomplicated personal life. On another level, the documentary is also about a son wanting the world to recognize more fully his father's genius. Almost everyone has heard of I.M. Pei. Only architecture aficionados know of Louis Kahn.

So when Nathaniel Kahn comes to interview I.M. Pei about his father, we sense very clearly that the son is pleased that Pei recognizes his father's genius. We can also sense that Nathaniel believes his father was much less "successful" than he should have been.

Pei's response is so generous and pastorally sensitive that I have remembered it for the past 15 years, after I first watched the documentary in a theater. Obviously sensing the subtext to Nathaniel's question, Pei immediately puts his doubts to rest: "Building doesn't mean success... three or four masterpieces is more important than fifty or sixty buildings." Pei then smiles and looks right at Nathaniel. "Quality, not quantity."

Can you imagine the feeling of relief and pride that must have flowed through Nathaniel at that moment? Here was perhaps the most famous architect in the world basically saying that Louis Kahn's "three or four masterpieces" were more important than the many buildings of a more "successful" architect, perhaps like those designed by Pei himself.

If Nathaniel Kahn had any reason to doubt his father because of his lack of worldly success, Pei firmly puts those doubts to rest.

And while we may not be world-famous architects, there are people in our lives who look at us with the same kind of respect that Nathaniel Kahn had for I.M. Pei. People who look at us for affirmation and care, and if we all responded with similar levels of generosity and sensitivity and love, just imagine how our world might be transformed. 

The Rev. Steven Lee

From Marsha and Tim

This coming Sunday May 19, the GMHC sponsored AIDS Walk 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 AM. This is a great opportunity to look outward and show our love and support.    
At 2:00 PM on May 19 at All Souls’ Church Cinema, 88 Saint Nicholas Avenue between 114 and 115th Street, there will be a free screening of I am not your Negro, a stunning documentary about James Baldwin. All are welcome.
The problem of plastics
While so many of us are concerned about climate change and environmental degradation, plastic has been identified as a major problem. The oceans are full of it, fish and other wildlife and dying because of our use of plastic. Beginning on Tuesday (May 14), Cathedral School will be hosting the Blue Wave sculpture. This large work is made from single use plastics that were collected during one day at the Pratt campus in Brooklyn. It is meant to facilitate conversation about waste and to motivate people to decrease their use of plastics. The sculpture will be located outside of the school expansion building (near the guard house—close to Morningside Drive) through May 20.  For more information see
An invitation from the Education for Ministry (EfM) group to a pre-Reformation liturgy

Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 PM in the conference room of Cathedral House, the EfM (Education for Ministry) group sponsored by the Congregation of Saint Saviour will roll back the years to a time before the Protestant Reformation. Our Vicar, Fr. Lee will preside at one of several authentic liturgies which have been preserved from those years before the Reformation which changed the complexion of worship in the church. This is a tradition with our EfM group and a great way to look into the past of our worship traditions and see how far we come in our services.

All are invited to attend. There will be refreshments following.

Enjoy this beautiful spring weather and the amazing green that surrounds us after all the rain!
Marsha and Tim