Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog


As the Cathedral becomes decorated for Christmas, one piece that often catches visitors’ eyes is Peace Tree in the Cathedral’s Narthex and many wonder why, exactly, the Cathedral has a Christmas Tree covered in 1000 paper cranes.

Photo Credit: Wayne Pearson

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Team Spotlight: Textile Conservation Lab REBECCA MERRILL DECEMBER 17, 2018

From left to right: Krystyna Dobrowolski, Ligia M. Fernandez, Zoey Hasselbring, Marlene Eidelheit, Anna Szalecki, Anna Szalecki, Valerie Soll, Jamie Casbon (Not pictured: Bari Falese)

Those who visit the Cathedral will have seen Cathedral's tapestry sets The Life of Christ and The Acts of the Apostles. What you might not know is that the reason we all enjoy those works is because of the hard-working and dedicated group of people who work in the Cathedral's Textile Conservation Lab. These 8 professionals conserve textiles of all kinds belonging to leading museums, private collectors, and clients concerned with one or more family pieces.

In today's Staff Spotlight, we'll learn a little more about this team!

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Help Make the Holidays Special for Families in Need REBECCA MERRILL NOVEMBER 29, 2018

As the holidays draw near, many of us are thinking of those who might need some support to make the season special and warm. Cathedral Community Cares has many ways those looking to help can lend an extra hand.

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Why does the Cathedral have a Textile Conservation Lab? REBECCA MERRILL NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Photo Credit: Helena Kubicka de Bragança

The story of why the Cathedral has a Textile Conservation Lab is as old as the Cathedral itself. In 1891, a year before the cornerstone of the building was laid, American art collector Elizabeth Underhill Coles donated a set of the Barberini Life of Christ tapestries to the Cathedral. Though the building itself was still a dream, Ms. Coles knew that, when finished, a Cathedral needed tapestries to decorate the walls. This momentous donation gave credibility to a dream project and created a tradition of art stewardship at the Cathedral that continues to this day.

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Dean Daniel welcomes the New York Restoration Project THE RIGHT REVEREND CLIFTON DANIEL III OCTOBER 31, 2018

On Monday, October 29th, we welcomed the New York Restoration Project for their annual Hulaween Gala. The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, Dean of the Cathedral, greeted the guests with these words:

What a joy to welcome you here tonight to this great Cathedral of St. John the Divine and this wonderful gala. We give thanks to Bette Midler and the Board of the Restoration Project for the great vision and work the Restoration Project does in NYC to bring beauty, wholeness and loveliness to the city and its people.

Restoration of the earth’s environment is crucial to our well-being and that of our planet. And that is just the beginning of the need for restoration.

We need the restoration of civility in our national life and put an end to division and hatred.
We in this nation need the restoration of the right of all citizens of our nation to live in safety without fear of becoming victims of hate crimes against them no matter what their race, religion, identity or orientation.
We need restoration of hope and trust in our elected leadership, beginning with the great pumpkin in the White House.

Tonight, we celebrate the Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler. She is an inspiration to all of us and her vision is a energizing symbol of the demands and work of restoration that lie before us.

Happy Anniversary Barberini Tapestries! REBECCA MERRILL SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

Video credit:
Mike Bragg
Museum Design Services Manager
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

It’s been one year since our beloved exhibition, The Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome opened at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon. The exhibition debuted at the Cathedral in March 2017 as a celebration of our Textile Conservation Lab’s work to conserve the tapestries, which were donated to the Cathedral before the cornerstone was laid over 125 years ago.

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Conservation and Restoration of Diocesan House Façade REBECCA MERRILL SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

The entrance above Diocesan House, which was built in 1912, is comprised of ornate stonework that surrounds windows to an office on one floor and an apartment on another.

Diocesan House front view, 1919

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Bishops of New York Donations for Indian Flood Relief REBECCA MERRILL AUGUST 22, 2018

On Monday, August 20th, Bishops Dietsche, Shin and Glasspool sent this letter to the people of the Diocese of New York about the flooding in Kerala, India. They encouraged all members of the diocese to learn more about the flooding, pray for those affected, and, if so moved, to donate to support to the diocese in their relief efforts.

How to Help Immigrant Children Separated from their Families REBECCA MERRILL JUNE 21, 2018

All at the Cathedral have watched in horror as images from the border of traumatized children ripped from their parents by ICE agents flood our news feeds. Bishop Dietsche has issued a statement you can read here. While we reach out to local organizations, including Catholic Charities in New York where some of these children were transported, to learn their needs, we offer you the following list of other ways to help.

Southern Poverty Law Center

Here’s a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant children separated from their families - Texas Tribune

ABA Children’s Immigration Law Academy

The Young Center for Children’s Immigrant Rights

Immigrant Songs REBECCA MERRILL JUNE 20, 2018

Today, June 20th, is the United Nation’s World Refugee Day, held every year to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.”

Earlier this year, we were honored to premiere Immigrant Songs by Robert Sirota on a libretto by The Reverend Canon Victoria Sirota, which celebrated immigrants Rafeal Guestavino, Marina Friedenberg Stern, and Ravi Ragbir. You can hear the full song here and read the lyrics here.

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AIDS Quilt Display KEVIN DE L'AIGLE JUNE 12, 2018

Last month, we revealed a display of three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to coincide the with Congregation of St. Saviour’s support of the NYC AIDS Walk. While we initially expected the panels to be up for just a week, we are thrilled to announce they will be on display through November!

Each of the three panel contains a name of a victim of the epidemic with a close connection to our Cathedral community. In the early 1980’s, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was at the forefront of responding to the AIDS crisis when the disease first appeared in New York by providing support and sanctuary for those affected.

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Staff Spotlight: Jen Gowers REBECCA MERRILL MAY 31, 2018

picture of Jen Gowers

Name: Jen Gowers
Title: Executive Director, ACT Program
Neighborhood/Town you live in: Harlem
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: About three months

What is your origin story?
I had the pleasure of receiving my doctoral hood from Teachers College on this beautiful campus, and that particular encounter with this holy and magnificent space has long stayed with me. Believing deeply in young people and in their endless potential, having worked in a variety of roles in both NYC public and NYC public charter education, and living for about 15 years in the neighborhood, I was delighted to encounter the Cathedral’s ACT program (Adults and Children in Trust), which has been enriching and developing young people in Harlem for over 40 years. I was captivated by the opportunity to use my educational leadership skillset specifically here, in service of toddlers to teens at a place I believe in so deeply: the Cathedral’s inclusivity, beauty and core values set a strong foundation for this diverse, nurturing educational organization, and it’s an honor to be here.

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Staff Spotlight: Nicole Toutounji REBECCA MERRILL MAY 15, 2018

Woman in beekeeping outfit next to hives and trees

Name: Nicole Toutounji
Title: Beekeeper in Residence
Neighborhood you live in: Upper West Side
Length of time you’ve been associated with the Cathedral: 5 years

What is your origin story?
After a long career as a photographer and photo editor at UNICEF’s New York headquarters, I took beekeeping classes, joined The Honeybee Conservancy, and apprenticed with seasoned beekeepers. I always hoped that my beehives would find their home on the grounds of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine because I have always thought of the Cathedral as being a wonderful oasis of serenity and holiness. Ray Guyette, the former Director, Facilities, and Lisa Schubert, VP, Programming and External Affairs, helped make that dream come true. We have now two beehives on the Close. One of the stones that weighs the hive down has Ray’s name carved on it. Although I’m not a member of the congregation here, I could not think of a better place for a beehive than the Cathedral. The grounds are magnificent and the Cathedral cares about sustainability. There is something very blessed here—they keep God’s creation in good repair.

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The Feast of Absalom Jones REBECCA MERRILL FEBRUARY 7, 2018

portrait of Absalom Jones

On Saturday, February 10, the Cathedral joins the rest of the Episcopal community in celebrating The Feast of Absalom Jones. At a special 10:30 am Saturday Eucharist organized by the Diocese of New York activist Ruby Nell Sales will preach. Following the service, we’ll hold a reception featuring lively music and refreshments.

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The following is the text of the sermon given by The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, Interim Dean, on January 14, 2018. You can listen to the full audio on our sermons page.

Today I am going to talk about sin. Now this is not a popular sermon subject. Most sermons on this topic tend to put people to sleep. I ask your indulgence for a couple of minutes before you go to sleep. In fact, I’m going to talk about sin in a different way – I’m going to talk about sin as anesthesia. Let me tell you why.

When I was a teenager growing up in a town in North Carolina in the early 1960s, there was a civil rights march down the main street. So four of us got in a car and parked so we could watch the march in progress. We weren’t hostile. We just sat and watched the marchers go by. We could not for the life of us figure out what they were marching about. The world seemed fine to us. Of course it did, we were asleep to the realities faced by the people passing by in the march and to our own realities. We were unaware and indifferent to that stark pageant of segregation, patriarchy, oppression marching by and we were unaware of our own white privilege and sense of male superiority. From that perspective, the world looked pretty good to us. But morally, we were asleep, unaware to the world around us, anesthetized by sin.

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Diocese of New York Announces Caribbean Recovery Fund REBECCA MERRILL JANUARY 17, 2018

This summer, hurricanes hit our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean with a seemingly never-ending barrage of wind and rain, causing massive amounts of death and damage along the way. The Diocese of New York sprung into action for short-term assistance through Episcopal Relief and Disaster Recovery. Now, as the more intermediate and long term needs become known, the Diocese has announced its own initiative to help the Diocese of Puerto Rico.

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Staff Spotlight: David Briggs REBECCA MERRILL JANUARY 9, 2018

David Briggs sitting at organ
Name: David Briggs
Title: Artist in Residence
Neighborhood/Town you live in: NYC
Length of time you’ve been affiliated with the Cathedral: Since October 1, 2017

What is your Cathedral origin story?
I first performed at the cathedral in April 2013 for the premiere of my transcription of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the ‘Resurrection Symphony’. I completely fell in love with the wonderful Aeolian-Skinner Opus 150A organ, with it’s almost limitless resources of color and power. At that time I was Artist in Residence at St. James Cathedral, Toronto. My 5-year tenure in Toronto came to an end last summer and I’m thrilled now to be based at St. John the Divine.

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Calling all Cathedral friends! Help Cathedral Community Cares collect new, unwrapped toys for their annual holiday toy drive! Toys can be dropped off at the CCC offices in the Town Building through Thursday, December 21st. Donations will also be collected at Sunday services on December 3rd and 10th. All donations are distributed to the families served by CCC.

The Cathedral Gives Back REBECCA MERRILL NOVEMBER 28, 2017

Photo by Geordie Wood courtesy Magnum Foundation

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The Right Reverend Dan Daniel quoted Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount when asked about the Cathedral’s commitment to tithing. Typically seen as a way for people of faith to give back to the church, Dean Daniel takes the tradition a step further, viewing it as a sacred obligation for the Cathedral to give back to the community.

“When I balance my checkbook at the end of the month, I can see very clearly what my priorities are and if my actions are living up to my values,” Dean Daniel said. “The same is true of the Cathedral. I want to be able to do more than just talk about the things we believe in here, but also show our beliefs in action. We do this through our programs—Cathedral Community Cares, Adults and Children in Trust, and the myriad of events that help underserved populations, but also through donating to causes that we believe in.”

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Staff Spotlight: Thomas Perry REBECCA MERRILL NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Name: Thomas Perry
Title: Program Manager, Cathedral Community Cares
Neighborhood/town you live in: Inwood
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: 16 years

What is your origin story?
I was going to school for cooking and heard there was a soup kitchen at the Cathedral that needed volunteers. I showed up and for the first few weeks I was on dish duty but when George, who had run the soup kitchen for years, heard I was a chef, he had me start helping him with the cooking. I basically became his Sous Chef. The biggest thing I learned from George is that we want to give everyone here a restaurant experience from the food that we serve to the way that people are treated. A few years later George passed away and I came on as the part-time as Food Manager. About a year ago, I took on managing all of CCC.

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