Windows on the World
Last December, just a few days into my new role as Cathedral Dean, I was given a tour of the Cathedral campus by Bishop Rice and Pete Cabbiness. The tour concluded in the Cathedral and the Bishop asked me, "What do you notice about the Cathedral?" My response was immediate, "It feels very dark in here." Since that tour in December 2018, I have heard countless similar comments about the "darkness" within the Cathedral sanctuary. By definition, darkness is the absence of light. The Bishop, Pete, and I concluded our Cathedral sanctuary could use more light! Over the past eight months, with the help of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, Pete and I have explored how we might improve the "lighting" in the Cathedral. Light bulbs were changed and tested. New lighting schemes were discussed. However, after ever discussion and every experiment, we were unsatisfied. We were missing something!
Churches, especially Cathedrals, are buildings that communicate a theology. In the days before most people could read, churches told the stories of our faith through architecture, symbols, and art. I began to think about the "theology" (the story) that our Cathedral sanctuary communicates to anyone who walks into the space.
The "absence of light" in our sanctuary is a result of the Cathedral's cloistered feel--there is not a single window in the sanctuary that looks out into the world that we are called to love and serve. The light bulb came on in my head! We were so focused on the artificial light problem in the sanctuary that we failed to see the real source of the problem—the lack of natural light in the Cathedral. Currently, our Cathedral sanctuary shuts out the external light and thus removes/isolates our congregation from the world. I said to Pete one day, "We don't have a lighting problem, we have a theological challenge. We are not letting the light of the world fill our Cathedral."
This summer, both the Buildings and Grounds Committee and the Chapter approved a plan to replace the "frosted yellow window panes" on the Cathedral's east-side with clear glass; thus, opening the Cathedral’s sanctuary to the world and allowing the light of the world to illuminate our worship space. Starting next week, contractors will begin swapping out the glass panels. I have come to realize this is not really a lighting project as much as a theological project. I believe this will be a "transformational" project for the Cathedral. It will truly open up our worship space to the world. It will also allow us to begin thinking how we might better utilize the beautiful courtyard and grounds between the Cathedral, Chapel, and school building. Currently, that beautiful space is poorly under-utilized.
At the most basic level, we will have better (natural) light in the Cathedral. Once the windows are installed, we can complement the sanctuary with enhanced electrical lighting, if needed. At the theological level, our primary worship space will have a greater connection to the outside world. Our chapel already takes advantage of the natural light and the beautiful Cathedral grounds to enhance the worship space. This "lighting project" is funded by generous donors, not operational funds. About 70% of the $7,500 has been raised and we hope others might be interested in donating to the project. If you are interested in donating, please speak to me or Pete Cabbiness. Soon our Cathedral sanctuary will better reflect the theology of our Cathedral community. The St. James family is committed to connecting with and serving the community . . . now we will be able to see the community beyond our Cathedral when we worship. I hope and pray it is a daily reminder of our call to be Christ in the world.