Washington National Cathedral announces $115 million fundraiser
Earthquake damage to National Cathedral will take years to repair
The Right Reverend Randolph “Randy” Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, said the five-year effort had met its preliminary goal after a low-key campaign to identify committed donors began three years ago. The overall goal is to raise $150 million.
Cathedral officials hope to raise the rest over the next two years and direct some of those funds toward tackling the thorniest earthquake-related damage to date: the cathedral’s central tower, whose pinnacles cracked still bear a crown of heavy steel beams to bind and lock them. in place. That work alone is expected to take at least eight more years, cathedral officials said.
Hollerith said that in addition to securing major repairs, the funding will be used to support the cathedral’s ongoing operations, which can cost up to $50,000 a day.
“What we always believe is that if we do the job that we are supposed to do, then the support and the resources will be there,” said Hollerith, who arrived in 2016 with a reputation as a savvy fundraiser. He said the cathedral operates on an annual budget of $25 million. budget and employs 86 full-time people.
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Hollerith acknowledged that the pace of repairs has been slow since the August 2011 earthquake inflicted $38 million in damage. But, he said, the pace was dictated by funding, as well as the demanding and complex nature of the work on one of the tallest buildings in the district. Much of the stonework restoration was done by hand.
Hollerith said the cathedral, which has completed about $24 million in earthquake-related repairs to date, has avoided siphoning off capital funding from its ongoing operations.
“It was important that we didn’t take money from the mission of this place to repair pinnacles at the top of this place. This work is important, but it shouldn’t detract from the reason we’re here,” Hollerith said.
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The Washington National Cathedral’s latest fundraising campaign also highlights its dual mission as an Episcopal place of worship and a monument in the nation’s capital. Hollerith said that because of its location, the cathedral strives to balance a church ministry dedicated to addressing important issues of the day and providing a welcoming spiritual home for people of all political backgrounds. It serves as a favorite venue for ceremonies that combine religious observance with affairs of state, such as the funerals of presidents or last week’s memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II. Before the pandemic, the cathedral attracted around 250,000 tourists a year; its congregation numbers over 1,500, while as many as 10,000 tune in on Sundays from afar.
“Above all, we are a church. We are an Episcopal Church committed to the reconciling love of Jesus Christ,” Hollerith said. “That being said, we also happen to be a monument in the sense of being one of the most beautiful and grandest buildings in Washington, D.C. And so we live and stand on this first piece, which we we are a church: Worship, music, prayer is fundamental to who we are Being a monument is part of our stewardship – caring for this beautiful place.
The idea that Washington should have a monumental church worthy of the nation’s capital dates back to George Washington and the early days of his founding. But it became the life mission of Washington’s first Episcopal bishop, the Very Reverend Henry Yates Satterlee, in the late 19th century. Satterlee envisioned a structure that would “inspire combined religious and patriotic sentiments,” according to a June 1907 article in The Washington Post, when the church’s design was unveiled.
Plans called for a cathedral – officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – designed in the 14th-century Gothic style and modeled on those in Europe. About 10,000 people, including President Theodore Roosevelt, attended the cornerstone laying ceremony in September. At the time, church officials estimated its cost at $5 million or more.
On a tour last week, Hollerith walked past workers wearing hard hats putting the finishing touches on renovations to the Virginia Mae Center, recalling how he developed a fondness for the mishmash of Gothic and “Harry Potter” style Tudor as a young priest studying there. almost 30 years ago.
“So when I arrived as Dean and learned that the College had been closed, it was very special for me personally – not just as Dean, but personally – to see if we could reopen it. “, said Hollerith.
Cathedral officials say a $17million donation from Virginia C. Mars and her four daughters – a family linked to the Mars candy fortune – was the catalyst to continue work on the building of 1929, which will house the new Cathedral College of Faith and Culture.
Renovations to the four-story structure — five, if its tower is included — included restoring a colorfully painted ceiling in the entryway; add an improved elevator; installing new glass in the cloisters overlooking the garden or the small courtyard; modernize your kitchen; expanding conference spaces and equipping them with videoconferencing technology; and the creation of private quarters for visiting artists or composers.
Next in line for an overhaul is the long-suffering church pipe organ. Installed in 1938 by Ernest M. Skinner and Son Organ Co., the electromechanical juggernaut has suffered the effects of time and earthquake-induced water damage.
Thomas Sheehan, the cathedral’s organist and its deputy director of music, slid his fingers over the keys on Thursday to show why the machine needs work: Not all of its trumpets sound wrong and plenty of keys are hitting dead notes.
Among the organ’s 10,650 pipes, made of soft lead and varying in size from pencils to downpipes, there are many that have disappeared or become droopy or bent over time. Others were clogged on purpose with cotton balls or whatever came to hand in an emergency after the air valves got stuck. The organ, along with the computer that helps run it, have become so finicky that Sheehan avoids certain tunes and composers altogether.
“I never, ever want to play something that won’t come out the way I want it to,” he said, “so what I end up doing instead is restricting what I play.”
Repairing the organ will mean taking the thing apart and shipping it to Connecticut for repair, he said.
And then there’s the structure itself, with its towering stone walls, flying buttresses, and odd people of gargoyles and grotesques watching over the city from above.
Joe Alonso, chief stonemason at the Washington National Cathedral, said violent energy from the quake traveled from deep within the Earth to the top of the cathedral, shattering the delicate stone pinnacles like whips. . Some spun or cracked, sending pieces of stone, including an angel, falling to the roof below.
Repairing the damage was difficult, especially about 300 feet in the air, Alonso said. But he is already thinking of the day, years from now, when the tower will be finished and the angel can be put back in its place.
“I can see this is the last token piece: the fallen angel,” Alonso said.
But, he says, the money has to be there first. And that is why the staff of the cathedral celebrated its 115th anniversary in essentially asking for a gift – and expressing confidence that her wishes would be granted.
“Although we are fundamentally a Christian church and an Episcopal church, great cathedrals like this have this wonderful ability to be places of encounter with the sacred, whether you are a Christian, whether you are a Jew – whatever you are , agnostic, researcher,” Hollerith said. “You know, it creates space for these encounters, and it’s very important to us, that we reflect the nation in that way.”