Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Cathedrals As Seers

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The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY was rededicated by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., on Sunday, November 21, 2010. The event provided our Diocese with an opportunity to focus on the meaning of a cathedral in the 21st century. This  article was the last ina series of three written for the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Albany.

Some decades ago a religious building in downtown St. Louis, Missouri was becoming a victim of urban gentrification. The Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral was not only deteriorating it was losing members because of the socio-cultural changes in the neighborhood. Edwin Lynn described that Cathedral in the title of his book as a Tired Dragon. However, rather than sell and move to the suburbs the Cathedral board decided to stay put, energize the people and invest in the building.

That Cathedral congregation began to imagine the possibilities for the future. It realized it needed a new vision to survive. First, the Cathedral building itself was stabilized and restored, a project that attracted new members. The enhanced and flexible interior made it possible to celebrate liturgies in diverse ways. Along with its many programs, the Cathedral building became a prominent voice in the public square. It was envisioned that the Cathedral could be a place not only for congregational gatherings but also a place for neighborhood meetings, a center for interfaith events and ecumenical discourse.

In many ways the cathedrals of yesteryear were places of imagination — where liturgy, architecture, music and all the arts could flourish; where civic problems could be addressed; where downtrodden people could imagine living anew; where scientists and theologians could wrestle with spiritual and ethical issues and where religion could take its rightful place in the political forum.

Our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with its refurbished interior and its proximity to civic, artistic, medical and university centers has the potential to join hands with many allies addressing issues that pertain to the quality of life. Although our Cathedral still requires more work it can be a model for parishes and institutions in our Diocese working together to experience an amazing God.

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

One thought on “Cathedrals As Seers

  1. As I read this I am reminded of the tension that we are called to live in. We are the living stones and the buildings are made for living. If a Cathedral or church of any sort becomes only a relic or museum, what is it then? If we do not embrace that church is ekklesia, the assembly, the people and that the building must be sanctuary, haven, beacon and more, then we are diminished and the building is dead stone.

    I received a last minute invitation to the re-dedication. To me I saw the very best of the Roman Catholic Church and the worst as well. That ambiguity, that dissonance is a power unto itself.

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