What's a cathedral? That's a question people, even some Episcopalians, might ask about the name of our Church. St. John's was started at the end of the 19th century as a parish church, but it wasn't until 2008 that we were designated as a cathedral for our geographic region, the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Cathedra, in Greek and Latin means a seat or chair, in this case the specific chair in which a bishop sits as the sign of her or his authority. Since 2008 we have had a small cathedra that belonged to old St. Paul's Cathedral, but the actual formal cathedra of the Bishop has been at Cathedral Center in Echo Park… until now.
Bishop Taylor, in conversation with our Vestry, has made clear the designation between our Diocesan Offices in Echo Park, and the Diocesan Cathedral, the official liturgical home of the Bishop, here at St. John's. Within the next week you will probably see two new chairs in the area near our high altar -- one crowned with a cross and wooden canopy for the Bishop of the Diocese, and a smaller one opposite for the Bishop Suffragan, a bishop elected to assist the Diocesan Bishop in his or her role.
The Echo park location is now called St. Paul's Commons, to honor the old historic Cathedral of our Diocese (St. Paul’s) damaged in an earthquake many years ago and subsequently demolished. There will be a special service to be scheduled in the near future officially to receive these chairs at St. John's and seat Bishop Taylor in the cathedra of the diocese.
A cathedra is important to our understanding of church, because in our very name "episcopal" is our belief that we are a church unified by our relationship by the "episkopos," another Greek word for bishop. The seat of the bishop in the cathedral is a physical sign of that unity so that people from across our diocese come here to St. John’s, joined with our Bishop, in the common mission of Christ throughout the five and a half counties that compose the Diocese of Los Angeles.
So, when you see these chairs now in our official cathedral, know that we have the honor here to be the place of hospitality for our bishop and Episcopal siblings across our diocese.