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Within the three months of this year, beginning in April, two cathedrals, in the Episcopal dioceses of Rhode Island and Delaware, are ceasing to operate and closing their doors.
On Sept. 25, 2011, the vestry (board of directors) of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Wilmington, Del., announced that it would close down in July 2012 because:
“For several years, the cathedral has been having difficulty meeting the expenses of our beautiful building. Declining membership and inability to attract new members and pledges (financial support) has added to the financial uncertainty. The cathedral has been on the verge of closing several times over the last five years as it has used up its reserves.”
On Feb. 20, Rhode Island’s daily newspaper, the Providence Journal, reported the following: “The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John – which began as King’s Church in 1722 and is the Diocese of Rhode Island’s fourth-oldest church – is shutting down, with a final service set for April 22.
“Parishioners of the cathedral church, the seat of Bishop Geralyn Wolf, learned the news on Sunday from the Right Rev. David Joslin, the cathedral’s interim dean, and Deacon Barbara May-Stock, during the parish’s annual meeting on North Main Street.
“Parishioner Marjorie Beach says many were in tears when advised that because of declining numbers of pledging families and the cost of salaries and benefits, the parish could no longer continue – at least for now. The church closed temporarily once before – during the American Revolution.”
The schedule door-closings of these two Episcopal cathedrals inevitably brings focus upon that denomination’s National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C.
This, one of the world’s largest cathedrals, suffered so badly in the Aug. 23, 2011, 5.8 earthquake that the total repair cost is now estimated to be $20 million.
“A total of $2 million was raised over the past six months to cover the cost of stabilizing damaged stones and protection to allow the cathedral to reopen.”
That leaves $18 million still to be raised, which has led to the National Cathedral canceling all its advertising of service times and other events in the Washington Post’s Saturday church page.
This – as well as the closing of the Providence and Wilmington Episcopal cathedrals – has led to no little speculation that the $18 million still due to complete repairs on the Washington Cathedral might even result in a desperate diocesan decision to sell the cathedral – possibly to become a national religious shrine for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has grown to seven times the membership of a once-dominant Episcopal Church.