Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

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.”

The Cathedral has a long tradition of social outreach and commitment to community. Cathedral Community Cares (CCC) works to combat and alleviate poverty through preventive poverty services, education and advocacy—specifically targeting the issues of health and hunger. CCC tackles these problems on multiple fronts by addressing the immediate and beyond-emergency needs of the underserved, while seeking long-term policy solutions that will benefit both clients and the greater community.

CCC, with the help of 30 volunteers, hosts a Sunday soup kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch to over 600 people a month. Twice a week, CCC operates a clothing closet, helping provide clothes to people needing emergency assistance and for those looking to return to the workplace. This program is also assisted by volunteers, and all the clothes distributed have been donated by members of the Cathedral community. (Clothes can be donated in person, and anyone interested in volunteering for CCC is encouraged to email ccc@stjohndivine.org.)

The Cathedral’s commitment to our preschool, afterschool, and summer camp programs through Adults and Children in Trust (ACT) is also a contemporary extension of the Cathedral’s tithing in practice. By providing quality and affordable activities for neighborhood families, we are proud to use our space and resources to give back to this community.

The idea of tithing originates in the Book of Genesis, when, after winning a military battle and rescuing his nephew Lot, Abraham thanks God by giving the church one-tenth of all he owns. This initial conception of tithing makes it clear that it’s not just about money, but rather a way to look at all of the possessions and material wealth in our lives and figure out what we are able to give back. And indeed, original tithes to the church were given in kind, with worshipers pledging agriculture or other goods to the church.

In addition to our own programs, the Cathedral has also long partnered with other mission-aligned community organizations to support their work, something Dean Daniel wants to continue to emphasize in our public programs. Longtime readers of this newsletter will recall the Cathedral’s collaboration with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to produce staged readings of Joan Didion’s haunting A Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, the proceeds from which benefited UNICEF and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Our Enter the Conversation series has frequently drawn partners from across the spectrum of nonprofit community and policy-making organizations. More recently, the Cathedral donated portions of our offerings from St. Francis Day and UN Sunday to several animal welfare and environmental organizations, each of them doing work that aligns with our mission and values. We do this in the original spirit of the tithe—as a gift of gratitude for all we have been given.

While tithing is still tied to the rule of ten percent, present-day understandings look to this as a positive challenge rather than a strict requirement, one that has translated into many other aspects of our lives. Many of us set up automatic, recurring donations to nonprofits we choose to support. We volunteer our time at institutions that we believe are deserving of it. We donate our old clothes and books to places that will reuse them for the public good. When it comes down to it, people of faith look at their budget, and instead of asking What should I give?, ask themselves What can I give? At the Cathedral, we are committed to doing the same.

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