Monday, November 25, 2013

Lessons from National Cathedral's new admission fee.

This morning, a story broke that Washington National Cathedral will begin charging a $10 admission fee ($6 for children and seniors) for weekday visitors starting in January.  (The fee is only for tourists. People will be able to come in and pray free of charge.)

Criticizing this decision is easy. Our gut tells us that our churches should be open spaces where people can freely come in to pray and worship God in the beauty of holiness. But there is a price tag attached to that openness. The cost of running Christ Church Cathedral and keeping our building open is high ... and that is peanuts compared to what it takes to keep National Cathedral up and running even before the millions of dollars of damage was done by the earthquake in August, 2011.

So even though their decision makes me sad, I won't criticize it because I haven't been in the room looking at the figures they are looking at. I can only trust that these are faithful people who are doing the best they can. I pray for them, and I hope you will, too.

But this development is instructive for us -- for all congregations, really, but particularly for cathedrals like us.

We talk often of the three roles of a Cathedral. We are a worshiping congregation, a "mother church" for the diocese, and also "sacred, public space for downtown, St. Louis and the region." (National Cathedral adds a national civic role on top of that).

The budget we just passed includes $355K in pledges from members of the Cathedral congregation. Those pledges are the result of the experience of Jesus Christ people have had in this congregation that has led them to give in gratitude as part of their discipleship.

But Christ Church Cathedral is not sustainable on pledges alone ... and not on pledges and endowment income, either. For us not just to survive but thrive, we need the support of the community around us who isn't here on Sunday morning. And that support has to be earned. We have to show we are serious about our mission to be a place of reconciliation for the city, a place that "serves all passionately as a Cathedral."

In short, we have to inspire the city so profoundly that it can't imagine Christ Church Cathedral not being here. We have to be such an essential part of downtown and regional life that the people of this city and region will give to support the work that is going on here for the common good.

Hays Rockwell, the bishop who ordained me, used to remind his clergy that churches got an exemption from taxes because they were meant to serve the common good ... and that any church that was only open on Sundays should start paying taxes.

We are committed to serving the common good because that's what Jesus calls us to do. It's why we are hosting Lafayette Preparatory Academy. It's why we host town hall meetings and conversations. It's why our default answer to community groups using the space is "Yes" ... unless there is a compelling reason to say no.

And it is beginning to make a difference. And in 2014, we're going to use the barometer of giving to see how far along we are on that road to being seen as essential for downtown and the region.

In 2014, we will restart and repurpose "Friends of Christ Church Cathedral." It will be a way for people who aren't part of the Cathedral congregation to support financially the ministry of this Cathedral to be a force for reconciliation, sacred public space, and where all St. Louis comes to work together for the common good. We have set a modest goal of $5,000 for the first year but hope we will be exceeding that.

Any money we raise will, of course, help us keep the doors open and the lights on. But that is not the main reason we're doing this. We are doing this because just as the congregation feels like Christ Church Cathedral is theirs, and just as the diocese feels that Christ Church Cathedral is theirs, we need downtown, St. Louis and the region to know Christ Church Cathedral is theirs. To know that as a building, a people and an institutional presence, we are indispensable to us being our best selves as St. Louis. And to know that Christ Church Cathedral is worth supporting not because we are just a beautiful building but because we are helping St. Louis make ourselves a city that makes glad God's heart.

I grieve for National Cathedral because I know this decision for them is a painful one. I pray we will never be faced with this option. But the best way to ensure that for us is to continue on the road we are on throwing open our doors and inviting the city inside. To continue resolute that we exist not for ourselves but to serve all passionately as a Cathedral in Christ's name.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Missouri Supreme Court and Kelly Glossip: A shameful chapter ... but not the final chapter.

I write letters to the editor with great hesitation, because I find they often generate much more heat than light -- and generally find the comments sections after them to be petrie dishes of some of the worse angels of our human nature. But today's ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court against our brother, Kelly Glossip -- particularly because it involves the state trying to ill-define a sacrament of the church -- needs comment. And we as Christ Church Cathedral are uniquely qualified to testify that what Kelly and Dennis had was as much a marriage as Robin and mine. 

I have sent this to the Post-Dispatch. I hope it represents our community well. Please keep not only Kelly but all those who are collateral damage of discriminatory laws in your prayers ... and may we all be rededicated to shaping those laws to reflect our best selves.

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Kelly Glossip was not entitled to survivor benefits from the state pension system because, despite their 15-year relationship, he was not legally married to Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard, killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day, 2009.

On one level, the logic of the decision is irrefutable … an airtight syllogism: Receiving benefits requires you be married. In Missouri, two people of the same sex cannot be married. Therefore, in Missouri, a same-sex partner cannot receive benefits.

This argument might be legally sound, but it fails on a human level and is not worthy of us as a compassionate and just society.

Kelly and Dennis were parishioners of ours at Christ Church Cathedral. Dennis is buried in our memorial chapel and to this day, Kelly remains a part of this community. Like many other couples of same and differing sexes in our congregation whose commitment to one another is absolute and whose love for one another witnesses to Christ’s love for the world, make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis were married. Not in a way that was recognized by the state. Not even in a way that was recognized by the Episcopal Church. But in ways that count on that human level -- in the eyes of one another, in the eyes of their community, and in the eyes of God.

For thousands of years, people of faith have held that marriage is not so much a piece of paper but a quality of commitment to one another that recognizes that the two become one in self-giving love. A commitment that enriches not just the two but all society. That marriage is a relationship of joyful intimacy and of help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. Make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis had a marriage. All that was missing was institutional sanction.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that it is the institutional sanction – not the years of dedicated care for one another – that matters. It is a failure … and is indeed, in the words of dissenting Justice Richard B. Teitelman, a continuation of a “shameful history” of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the good news is the final chapter of this history has not yet been written. And that is up to us. We must rededicate ourselves to writing the next chapter of this history. A chapter where the constitutional changes are made that recognize that no two people who have the depth of commitment and love that makes marriage one of the foundational institutions of our society should be denied its rights, responsibilities or benefits. A chapter that changes our founding documents so they no longer fail on that most basic, human level, but fulfill their highest purpose – to call us to our best selves as a compassionate, just society.

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral
Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To proclaim the Gospel boldly. To embrace diversity joyfully.

Here are some of my thoughts about the request by Pursuit Communities to use some of our space on Sunday morning. This is my first shot with iMovie and something happened with the sync-up of audio and video that I don't know how to fix ... so I hope it isn't disconcerting! But I'm posting this anyway because I don't want you to just read words from me on a page. I want you to hear my voice and see my face (even if they aren't always in sync). And I want us to do the same to one another -- hear each other's voices and see one another's faces.

in Christ's love,

Christ Church Cathedral’s 10 Rules for Respect

It's always good to have a refresher in these. These are our community rules for how we live out our baptism in treating one another. I am indebted to Bishop Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia for the version from which this is adapted.

1. If you have a problem with someone, go to them in person privately and speak to them lovingly.

2. If someone comes to you with a problem with someone else, encourage them to talk with that person.

3. If someone consistently will not approach the person with whom they have a problem, offer to go with them to help.

4. Assume the best motivations of one another and don’t try to guess each other’s intentions and motivations. When in doubt just ask, “Why are you saying that?” or “Why are you doing that?” or “Why is this important to you?”

5. If someone tells you something in confidence, don’t tell. The only exceptions are if a person is going to harm her/himself or someone else or if a child has been physically or sexually abused.

6. Do not read or write unsigned letters or notes.

7. Speak your own truth for yourself. Don’t say “lots of people think . . .” to try to add weight to your point. Speak your own truth and let other people do the same.

8. When in doubt, just say it—as lovingly as possible. Own up front if you think you might not say something perfectly. And be graceful to one another when we have trouble expressing something or make a mistake.

9. Any conversation that involves conflict is best had in person and is worst had using the internet. The only email that should be sent when you’re in conflict with someone is “When can we get together and talk?”

10. Pray for one another. That’s not just a throwaway line. Lifting one another to God in prayer is how we learn, slowly and sometimes painfully, but ultimately joyfully, to see each other and treat each other as God’s beloved.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homelessness in St. Louis: Perspectives and Solutions

Homelessness is not simple. It’s incredibly complex and systemic. Every person who ends up on the streets has an individual story for how they got there and needs individual help to get off the streets. Yet -- much of it by necessity of sheer volume -- many of our attempts to end homelessness tend toward mass, "one size fits all" efforts that end up falling way short.

There are lots of consequences … both intended and unintended not only to homelessness but to our efforts to help eliminate it. Again -- it's not simple. It's complex and systemic.

We tend to put people into artificial categories of those who care about the homeless and those who don’t, with those who don’t usually being tagged as uncaring business owners and residents. Problem is, that isn’t my experience of the people who live and work downtown. There are some who are like that … some who just want to push homeless people somewhere else where they will be out of sight, but most people I know who live and work downtown really want to help people who are homeless. But, they also have legitimate concerns about public health and safety, and also about what services will really help move people out of homelessness and what services are just creating a culture of dependency.

As I said. It’s not simple. It’s complex and systemic and there are many different perspectives.

So that's why we're teaming up with winter outreach tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Sept. 17) at 7 pm in the Cathedral Nave for a Downtown Hall Meeting which we’re calling "Homelessness in St. Louis: Perspectives and Solutions," because we want a chance for people from a broad variety of perspectives to share their vantage point on homelessness … what they see the issues are, what their concerns are, and where we might look together for solutions. A diverse group of panelists (see the list below) will each speak for no more than 3 minutes apiece and then most of the evening will be spent in diverse small groups where we will search for solutions that cut across the traditional battle lines.

We have intentionally planned this a week before the public hearing over NLEC because we want to have people go into that hearing with a strong experience that we are partners in this work of ending homelessness, not enemies. And hopefully with some sense of common ground that will have us fighting one another less and working together more.

Our hosting this meeting is a part of what I believe Cathedrals should be ... which is a gathering place where everyone is invited into the room and we ask the questions we think Jesus would ask. That's what's going to happen tomorrow evening.

I hope you will be at Christ Church Cathedral tomorrow night and listen deeply and speak plainly. And be a part of trying something new to end homelessness in our city.

Tomorrow night's panelists will include:
-Kenny Brunnel and other members of downtown’s homeless community
-Residents and those who work in downtown St. Louis
-Amanda Andrus, owner of Gelateria Tavolini
-Megan Heeney, outreach worker and Places for People service provider
-Brad Waldrop, downtown developer
-Sarah “Jonesey” Johnson, staff member of Left Bank Books
-Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen
-Chris Rice, Pastor of New Life Evangelistic Center

I will co-moderate the event with Jean Allman, professor at Washington University.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on leaders, leadership and God's work of gathering in St. Louis

This past weekend, I began Leadership St. Louis, a nine-month journey with a diverse and talented - and wonderfully joyful - group of 65 leaders in the St. Louis region (click here for the class roster). Over the next nine months, we will look in-depth at economic development, education, racism, power & politics, poverty & social sciences, the criminal justice system, arts & culture and the environment. We'll look at trends, problems and solutions -- and most of all imagine how we can work together to lead the region to a better future.

I posted a brief Facebook status about our opening retreat and how excited I was about the quality of leaders in our region, and it elicited a cynical comment from a friend of "When do they start leading?" This sentiment is not unique. We are cynical about leadership. We are frustrated with the problems in our region. We trust less and less and are more and more aware of the role money has in decision making ... and our own ability to be parochial and build and defend fiefdoms.

And yet, I am still full of hope. Over the past 4 1/2 years at Christ Church Cathedral and becoming immersed in the downtown community, I'm learning some things. I say "learning" instead of "have learned" because I still have a long way to go. I know in the next nine months, I will learn a lot more. And I'll keep writing ... and I'd love your comments and thoughts and to continue the conversation over coffee or a beer.

Here are some thoughts:

*The big issues facing the region - race and class divides, the opportunity gap in education and health care, employment and housing, city/county divides and more -- these have been around for decades or more and will not be solved overnight. There will not be one galvanizing leader who will take us to the promised land - certainly not in all of them and probably not even in any one of them. Progress will be -- and has been -- piecemeal.

*Because one of our major problems is parochialism and fiefdoms, some of the most effective leaders will be the ones who can work behind the scenes and out of the camera eye to bring people together. I think churches are poised to do a lot of this work ... to be the sacred common ground where people can gather to look for what the common good is. It is the networkers of the coming generations -- for whom the divisions are increasingly less important -- who will make the most progress on this.

*The big shifts often happen as a culmination of a lot of small efforts. 15 years ago, Magdalene in Nashville started as a house for 5 women (and Magdalene St. Louis will start the same way), but today it is helping lead a national conversation on human trafficking and helping cities across the country look at laws which punish prostitutes but not johns and look at a culture where it's OK to buy and sell women. Jesus did feed the 5,000 ... but a lot more often he spent his time working with small groups or individuals. There's something to be learned there. It doesn't have to be a March on Washington. The work Geoffrey Canada did with the Harlem Children's Zone shows what can happen when we just focus on even one neighborhood. In our region, Rod Jones, CEO at Grace Hill Settlement House, is taking that organization in the same direction in exciting ways (I'm thrilled to be a part of his board and of the Episcopal connection to that work!)

*In St. Louis, a big issue for many problems is how can we stop saying "not my problem" and work regionally for solutions. An example of this is homelessness. The vast majority of homeless services are in the urban core. This attracts the vast majority of homeless people, creating a system that is overloaded with volume so that it's pretty impossible to do anything but provide emergency services. Efforts throughout the wider region to provide homeless services throughout the region are incredibly important -- not just because they hold the potential of spreading out the volume so we can actually have manageable populations and help people move out of homelessness but it builds bridges between city and county that can be used on other problems. (Room at the Inn is a fantastic organization trying to do this in the region).

*I'm learning to look for leaders in different places. I'm learning not to look for them so much in elected office -- though I have met true and bold leaders in elected office. I'm learning to look for them in the business and nonprofit worlds. I'm learning to look for them in the crowd and not just on the podium. I'm learning to look for them in people who exercise more informal authority than formal authority. People who can mobilize resources in their community to do good. Even just downtown, I could start listing them and go on for paragraphs and still leave people out. Look around you. Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your municipality, who get things done ... who connect people and resources for the common good?

It's easy to slip into cynicism. Part of why I can get so reactive against cynicism is that I am so capable of it myself -- and I know that if I go down that road it is like being sucked into a black hole.  The demonic power of cynicism is it convinces good people that the cause is lost. And I absolutely believe that cause is not lost.

In 1 Samuel 17, the people of Israel are faced with a giant who seems undefeatable. They are just "men of Saul" ... and even though Saul is a great leader, they don't believe any among them are equal to the task of felling Goliath.

But then a small, young boy -- probably the last person you would expect -- steps forward. And David speaks a timeless truth -- we are never just people of one leader, we are always people of God.

If we put our trust in any human, any leader -- no matter how talented she or he is -- we are limited in our power and are able to be disappointed. There is no one leader who measures up to the giant challenges before us. But David reminds us that God, "the God who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine!"

And we know how that story ended.

What is bigger than the challenges in front of us is our God. And we know from Jesus that what God does is bind us together for the common good. There is no need for cynicism or fear. We have a long road to travel, but God is gathering.

What role will you play?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Our mission ... if we choose to accept it.

At last month's Chapter meeting, we adopted a mission statement based on the core values that came out of the home meetings last year (Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth and Service). The purpose of a mission statement is to guide the mission and ministry of the Cathedral and give focus to the broader mission we all share as Christians (The Great Commandment and the Great Commission - Matthew 22 and 28) and as Episcopalians ("to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" -- BCP, p. 855).

We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ through:
*Celebrating the sacraments faithfully
*Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
*Embracing diversity joyfully
*Serving all passionately
as a Cathedral.

The heart of the statement is the first clause -- "We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ." In all things, Jesus Christ drawing us deeper in relationship with God and each other is at the center. Everything else is how we go about doing that.

This mission statement has come from listening to the word of God in scripture, the tradition of the church and the voices of the people (a pretty Anglican process). But a mission statement is only just words unless it is lived. And the first step in living it is holding it in prayer and asking God to guide us through it. So that's what we're going to do.

*We will not be having a regular Chapter meeting in July. Instead, I'm asking the entire Chapter and congregation to spend the hour between 6-7 pm Central time on Thursday, July 18 in prayer with the mission statement. Pray in whatever way you experience prayer ... the point is listen for how God is calling us through this mission to grow in deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ.

2) The main agenda item for August's Chapter meeting will be asking "what did we hear?" If you're not on Chapter, you're welcome to come to this meeting or to share with Chapter members the fruits of your prayer time.

3) Since our mission is growing in deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ, we need to keep Christ continually before us. So, beginning in August, we will be moving Chapter meetings from the Guernsey Room to the upper platform of the Cathedral sanctuary -- right in front of the reredos. We will set up tables there, continue to share a meal as we have had in the past, but our business will be conducted literally at the foot of the cross. I don't know how this will change our meetings, but I am convinced it will change them.

For now, our mission ... if we choose to accept it ... is to pray. To listen for God's still, small voice. To let ourselves be shaped by the Spirit so we can set our course into the future.

I can't wait to hear what your experience of prayer has been ... and know that I am praying with and for you.