The Dean’s Report
May 7, 2017, ANNUAL MEETING
Remarks by The Rev. Dr. Paul L. Gaston, Acting Dean
This morning we meet in a spirit of gratitude, sorrow, and hope. Gratitude for the “imagination, courage, and faith” evident in the leadership provided by the Very Rev. Tracey Lind to this congregation, to this community, and to this Church. Sorrow for the circumstances that have prompted her untimely leave-taking. And hope that we will find and exercise the “imagination, courage, and faith” required of us as we endeavor to build on and to extend her legacy.
We undertake this endeavor with pride in the cathedral’s two centuries of work in God’s name. We have heard Michael Wells reflect on our bicentennial year. This time has offered an opportunity to commemorate and give thanks for the past and for those who have contributed to the powerful legacy Trinity represents. But this year has offered also an opportunity to understand just how much important work lies before us to be undertaken as we begin Trinity’s third century.
Thanks to an experienced and dedicated staff, to the Vestry and Cathedral Council, and, most especially, to all of you, we have begun that work. As I observe in the letter printed in the annual report, we do so with a sense of forward momentum. Our sustaining that momentum, which has been made possible in part by the leadership of those now retiring from the Vestry and Council, is now ensured by your electing just a few minutes ago their capable successors.
If I were to single out deserving members of the congregation or cathedral staff for special recognition, we would be here for a long time. But there is one individual I must mention—as I mention also the important task posed for us by his departure. Chris Decatur has served the people of Trinity Cathedral with imagination, care, and love. His aspiration to ordained ministry makes sense to anyone who knows him. But as we prepare to celebrate his beginning seminary study in August at Virginia Theological Seminary, we have already begun the effort to identify the person or persons who will carry on Chris’s good work with youth, with college students, and with the people of Trinity. This will not be easy. Please give us your ideas as you give Chris your thanks and prayers.
As you have heard from Tim Espy, the financial position of the cathedral is strong. Support from the congregation and from the community balanced by a tight rein on expenses gives us the opportunity and the responsibility to maintain our momentum and to create a firm platform for the next generation of decanal leadership.
Beyond our day-to-day fiscal steadiness, we give thanks also for the long-term investments in the cathedral’s future made possible by the capital campaign, “From Generation to Generation.” I thank Tony Wesley, a co-chair of this campaign, for his encouraging report. But we must understand it as an interim report, not as a final accounting. We continue to be challenged by the priorities of this campaign, and we remain committed to sustaining the campaign as our focus shifts to ensuring the success of the cathedral’s next dean.
In preparation for that success, we have undertaken, in concert with the work of the search committee, a systematic effort to build a sense of possibility, not only within the cathedral, but throughout the diocese. As Amy mentioned in her remarks, through a series of dialogues beginning next fall, we will focus intently on four closely related themes. The first, “The Cathedral in the City,” will prompt us to celebrate the ways in which our cathedral has reached out and found allies in our pursuit of our values—and to continue reaching out for new allies. We will invite you and other members of the community to this important discussion. With regard to “The City at the Cathedral,” we will consider whether we are doing all we can to serve as a gathering place, as a forum, and as a standard-bearer for those addressing the important issues of our community. To gain useful perspectives on “The Cathedral in the Diocese,” I will meet next fall with the clergy in every mission area so as to hear from them how we may be more supportive for their congregations. Finally, with their ideas in mind, we will begin to frame an approach to enriching the life of the cathedral through regular parish visits, the theme we are calling “The Diocese at the Cathedral.” None of these initiatives should in any way define the priorities of your new dean. Rather, they are meant to suggest a broad sense of possibilities and thus to support the new dean in her or his pursuit of a productive inaugural year.
With every kind intention, many of you have asked me, “Are you settling in?” While I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by your vestry and Bishop Hollingsworth to work with you at this time of transition, an interim dean should never “settle in.” There is a reason why the bookshelves in the dean’s office will remain bare. A reason why my certificates of ordination will remain on my walls at home. While an acting dean should act like a dean in all ways—in the liturgy, in community outreach, and in the administration of the cathedral, this ministry is an “Advent” ministry, in that its focus lies on “someone coming after me . . . .”
That reflection should prompt an expression of gratitude to the search committee. While an acting dean should maintain a proper distance from the search committee’s work, there is no one who prays more fervently and sincerely for its success. We are fortunate that a committee with deep experience and diverse perspectives has convened under the committed leadership of David Cratty. That committee will lead us first to broader self-awareness of how the cathedral has evolved, how its environment has changed, and how its opportunities for the future have developed. Then it will lead us through the process of discernment that will identify and attract candidates worthy of this high calling. And at every stage, I am sure, the search committee will keep us informed and solicit our ideas.
We will in time join in a hearty welcome for the new dean of Trinity Cathedral. In the meantime, we will work together to find new energy, to pursue new ideas, to worship faithfully, and, with God’s grace, to do God’s will.