Spirit of Welcome
By Fabienne Alexis
In this series, members of the Cathedral community reflect on some of the most meaningful events or parts of the Cathedral.
Welcome is about inclusion, accessibility, compassion, courtesy and value. I already feel welcomed in The Episcopal Church, simply because I feel represented more than patronized. The diversity of the Episcopal clergy – in gender, race, marital status and sexual orientation – always impressed me as a youth. Religion seemed subsequently accessible, not mythical. Choosing to apply and work at the Cathedral originated in reverence. Getting to know coworkers, staff, clergy members and witnessing the many sincere ways that all are welcomed at the Cathedral is what kept me a spiritual cheerleader.
As a Visitor Service Associate, I first realized the Cathedral’s unique effect on everyone while meeting and engaging with visiting guests and congregants, but also people who sought or previously benefited from the Cathedral’s community services like the after-school program, soup kitchen and clothing drives.
When hundreds of protesters went on a week-long Freedom Fast, the Cathedral hosted them at the end of their fast with warm food and even warmer support. The Freedom Fast, the Liturgy of Lamentations (commemorating Martin Luther King’s presence at the Cathedral as well as the ongoing work of repentance, reparations and reconciliation), the menorahs that flank the High Altar, the Absalom Jones celebrations (honoring the first African-American ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church), the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square movement, the Value of Sanctuary exhibition, Toni Morrison’s memorial and the fun evening of Qawwali (Indian Muslim devotional music) – these are just some of many profound Cathedral services, events and gestures I’ve witnessed here. These helped me see that the phrase “All are Welcome” isn’t a shallow tagline, it truly reflects the Cathedral’s commitment to walk the walk of listening, of understanding, of reaching out, of uniting and of striving to better life for all.
All are indeed welcomed at the Cathedral – locals, out-of-towners, prominent celebrities, everymen, religiously devout or minimally/hardly spiritual – and there’s enough room for us all. Feeling welcomed in the Cathedral means feeling included and valued in the church, in the community and in this crazy world.