I’m a concerned former Episcopalian. The story of the Episcopal Church is a sad one. It’s been totally eviscerated. There isn’t much left.
An act of Congress in 1893 led to the creation of a National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a “spiritual home” for events of national importance, such as state funerals, important sermons, prayer events, and so on.
The structure itself, built in the Gothic style, is very impressive. Lots of beautiful stained glass, including a window with a moon rock embedded in it. Gargoyles hanging off every tower and parapet, surveying the Capitol from their high elevation atop the tallest spot in the District.
Efforts to fill pews in Episcopal churches have been without effect, even in major and historically important churches like the National Cathedral. It seems that they’re giving up on that. Since preaching, teaching, and sanctifying are out of the question, according to this story the leadership at the National Cathedral will remove the pews, and try not being a church at all.
But what can you do with an empty church?
For one, you can have “public policy debates” for things like “gay equality and gun control.”
Or, you can evolve into a really outrageous fitness center, with tai chi and yoga. The “labyrinth” has been vogue for a number of years. Building on its success, they could install the first ever “labyrinth pool” and invite “synchronized labyrinth travelers” to “swim the path.”
The sky’s the limit, especially when you’re already graced with a life coach (i.e., cathedral dean) — The Very Rev. Gary Hall — who is quoted as saying he’d like to skateboard down the nave of the cathedral, or have a paper airplane competition there. He says “You see a cathedral, but not anything being done with it. I’m trying to get it back to its roots.” You know, roots, as in ancient Christian liturgical skateboarders! Did you know that before the sede gestatoria, all the popes up to the seventh century actually processed on skateboards? If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
I think this is what Rev. Hall actually means by getting back to roots: “attracting major donors and by better meeting the needs of a growing contingent of Americans who are spiritual but not religious.” This seems to me a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that Christian evangelism isn’t being practiced at all anymore. He says:
“In my experience over the years, where people come together is in prayer practices… it’s easier to have interfaith collaboration about that than at the doctrinal level. If I get people together and say, ‘Let’s talk about God,’ we’ll get an argument. But if I say, ‘Let’s all pray together and experience the divine together in our own way,’ people can enter that in a much more creative and less-judgmental way.”
The problem here is that the National Cathedral is supposed to belong to God, but ignoring Him is easier, and does not anger the gods of “more creative” and “less judgmental” who are worshipped in His place.