Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Washington Cathedral earthquake damage

The great Church building on Mount St. Alban’s in Washington D.C. is the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul – the spiritual home for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C.

It is also known as the “National Cathedral”


The cornerstone for the “National Cathedral” was laid in 1907 in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt.


In that era the American ruling classes were inevitably WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants).  At the pinnacle of the WASP establishment was the Episcopal Church. 



Membership in the Episcopal Church became the jewel in the crown for successful businessmen, financiers, manufacturers, lawyers and politicians.

The Washington Cathedral is ostensibly there “for the glory of God”.   But I believe that it is also a monument to the historical arrogance of the WASP ruling classes; and to the elitism, pride, snobbery, classism and racism which is part of the DNA of the Episcopal Church.



Yesterday (23rd August 2011) the Cathedral sustained some damage in an earthquake which rattled the eastern sea board of north America.

As earthquakes go it was not a “biggy”, and I am glad that no lives were lost, nor were any people injured.


As for the damage to that heap of stones on Mount St. Albans I shed no tears


I take my cue from a stanza of a hymn which we often sing in the Episcopal Church. 



The hymn originated with one Joachim Neander (1650 - 1680). His text was worked into a poem/hymn by Robert Bridges (1892 – 1983).

The first line of the hymn is “All my hope on God is founded”.


The second stanza has words of challenge and faith which say something to me about the “edifice complex” of my Episcopal Church, and of all the other monuments (religious or otherwise) to human pride and folly. Here it is:





Mortal pride and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray our trust; 
Though with care and toil we build them
Tower and temple fall to dust. 
But God’s power, hour by hour, 
Is my temple and my tower.

In my world people, and families, and children are worth saving.

Clinics and schools, and homes and hospitals are worth building.

Office towers and magnificent Churches are not worth preserving.


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