On my first visit to St. Paul’s in January of this year, we toured the Cathedral and then entered the Chapel of the Holy Family. I was taken with the exquisite architecture, the proportions of length, width and height so expressive of a sacred geometry that shapes one’s experience of peace and serenity. This was my first thought: What a wonderful place to sit quietly and pray. But then, on closer inspection, it was also clear that this space was in need of restoration and repair. I shrugged and thought, it’s not going to happen on my watch.
On this Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, it is especially appropriate to remember his prayer at the Church of San Damiano when he heard Christ speak to him saying, “Francis, repair my church.” We know there was more at stake than the physical space, but space does matter. And in the economy of God, who knew that a way would open for the restoration of our chapel.
In late July, the Rev. Canon Barnabas Hunt and the Rev. Canon Andrew Rank came to talk to me about the Chapel of the Holy Family. They were prepared to make a significant gift to repair and restore the chapel. As we discussed the project and walked through the chapel space, it became clear that this was something within our capacity to manage. The problems in the chapel were mostly cosmetic and functional. We were not looking at large architectural fees or structural challenges.
In addition, a long term need of the Society of St. Paul’s was expressed and discussed. Here is an excerpt from Canon’s Hunt’s letter:
|The Rev. Canons Andrew Rank |
and Barnabas Hunt , SSP
Ever since Andrew and I moved to the Cathedral as our place of ministry and spiritual home, in 2001, we have had a unique problem. Namely, a final resting place for the ashes of our departed brothers and ourselves when we depart this life. Our desire is a distinctive location for a new columbarium in which to inter eight single urns, six of which already exist. It is customary for religious who are set apart by their vows to be buried together in a community cemetery or columbarium.
The time has come for us to put our house in order and we would be relieved of a great burden if you can assist us in resolving this matter. Like Moses in the book of Exodus we have a need to lay the bones of our tribe to rest.
On Wednesday, October 2, the work began. Demolition first, a clearing of the space, getting ready to refurbish the plaster on the walls and redo the floor. The altar platform has been removed and the whole chapel will now be on one level, eliminating the steps. Cathedral chairs will replace the pews, allowing for a much more flexible and creative use of the chapel space. Chairs can be easily repositioned for small concerts, overflow crowds and more intimate services.
This renovation will be complete in just a few weeks. There is more to come but in the meantime, I would like to thank Canon Hunt and Canon Rank and the Society of St. Paul for their vision and generosity to make all things new!
The Very Rev. Rebecca McClain
Check out the pictures below for a closer look at the work!