Interim Dean and Priest-in-Charge's Note | March 10, 2024

On Sunday February 28,2024, the good people of St. John’s Cathedral gathered in the parish hall with the Rev.Dr. Eric Law for the fifth session on “Celebrating Our Past and Imagining Our Future Together.” The parish hall was so full that two additional tables were needed to seat everyone in the round, along with more handouts and food; a record turnout! The topic was liturgy and music, near and dear to the hearts of people at St. John's Cathedral.

Using the guide to “respect communication” the Rev. Dr. Law asked us to commit to the following:

R = take Responsibility for what you say and feel without blaming others

E = use Empathetic listening

S = be Sensitive to difference in communication styles

P = Ponder what you hear and feel before you speak

E – Examine your own assumptions and perceptions

C = keep Confidentiality

T = Trust ambiguity because we are not here to debate who is right and wrong

(from The Bush Was Blazing but Not Consumed by Eric H. F. Law)

The session began with a review of data from a survey on liturgy and music completed by members of the congregation. 

In the order of greatest response, the attributes that were “most important to participants about liturgy and music” at St. John’s Cathedral included: relevancy (9), diversity(8), tradition (6), congregation participation (6), quality (5) and an appreciation for music leadership (3). A few miscellaneous comments were made as well (5).Likewise when asked to list one concern, participants gave the following: music relating to the congregation singing (7), music to attract new and young members (5), Finance (5),pastoral and internal programs (5), pipe organ care (2),Diverse music (1), Quality(1) and Misc. (2). 

Then the work began. The people who gathered on Sunday were asked to select a position that they lean toward: 1) support traditional music/liturgy, 2) support more diversity in music/liturgy, or 3) support both traditional and diverse music/liturgy. 

The Good News is that 90%+ of the members who gathered voted in support of both traditional and diverse music/liturgy. This draws from both the past and invites something new or old moving forward. While the “traditional” group emphasized that “diversity is our tradition,” I suspect that something more could be wanted in the future since the vast majority of the group selected the option with both “traditional and diverse music/liturgy.” The outcome of this poll reflects what I have heard during the listening phase of my time as Interim Dean – both a love for the traditional music that is sung beautifully by our choir, under the direction of Dr. Christopher Gravis and accompanied by Dr. Zach Neufeld; and a longing to hear and sing music that is near and dear to the hearts of the diverse congregation who worship at St. John’s. 

I want to acknowledge that some survey participants would have appreciated definitions for the words“traditional” and “diversity/diverse.” While I cannot speak for the Rev. Dr. Law, I suspect that he wanted us to define these terms since he was inviting ambiguity – so not debate who is right or wrong. In the Episcopal Church we believe that we come closer to God’s truth and how we are called into right relationship with God and each other when we look through the lenses of tradition, scripture and reason and share what we believe to be true. We believe we need each other in this process.

I feel that we have heard the collective voice of the Cathedral in terms of preferences for liturgy and music. It is now for our talented musical staff and clergy to live into this dream for the future. 

There are three new worship experiences on the horizon, completely separate from our primary Sunday services at 8am and 10am. 

First, the Rev. Jon Dephouse, Lead Minister of Thad’s Church, which is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, asked if St. John’s would be open to allowing them to use our Cathedral once a quarter on a Sunday evening at 5:30pm. After a unanimous vote by the Vestry of St. John’s at the February meeting, the Rev. Dephouse confirmed that “Thad’s at the Cathedral” is scheduled for April 28th. More details will follow. As the Cathedral, it is lovely to support a ministry of our diocese. 

Second, in conversation with the Rev. Brandon Harris, Associate Dean for Religious and Spiritual Life at USC, a Jazz Vespers service with USC students is being planned for a mid-week offering monthly. USC has a gospel choir that we are hoping will visit too. 

Third, The Rev. Mel Soriano and members of St. John’s Cathedral are planning to launch a monthly Holy Eucharist in Spanish on Sundays at noon. The first Sunday service is planned for April 14th,after Easter. 

As noted, our glorious Sunday morning services will continue to celebrate the beauty of diversity that exists in the Episcopal Church by drawing from tradition and weaving together the diverse threads our of cultures and ethnicities. I am excited for the Cathedral of St. John’s LA. 

With love and blessings,