Friday, May 25, 2012

A Charter School in the BTM? Why, What and When.

This afternoon, I gave a tour of the Bishop Tuttle Memorial Building to members of the board and a prospective head of school for Lafayette Preparatory Academy. Last week, Cathedral wardens Bob Schleipmand and Tom Edelmann and I sat down with Matt O'Leary, chair of the LPA Board real estate committee, and began to construct a framework for a building use agreement for this start-up charter school to incubate in the BTM starting in summer, 2013. These conversations have been going on for several months and have included a detailed presentation made by Matt to Chapter two months ago. While nothing is signed and the arrangement is far from finalized (see below), I am extremely hopeful about this developing relationship and want to make sure we are communicating clearly about what is happening before we go further ... and also invite your thoughts and conversation.

Why host a charter school?
Our prayer book reminds us that as Christ's church, we never exist for ourselves but always "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." (BCP, p. 855) I can think of at least three big reasons why us being the incubator of Lafayette Preparatory Academy fits that mission.

1)  If we are to bring people to God in Christ and bring Christ's love to the world, we need to be in relationship with the world. In last Sunday's Gospel, we heard Jesus pray that his disciples might be in the world but not of it. LPA coming to our facility would exponentially increase not only the foot traffic in Christ Church Cathedral but the awareness of the Cathedral in the local landscape. That alone won't bring people into our worshiping and missional community, but it's a big first step.

2) Education is a huge ministry need and reconciliation opportunity in St. Louis ... particularly downtown  Public education has been in crisis in St. Louis City for years. LPA is taking on a particularly challenging task ... starting a school that from the start is dedicated to gathering a community of children that cross racial and economic divides. Our support of LPA is support of bringing love and reconciliation to a world whom Christ loves.

3) Christ Church Cathedral cannot survive on its own ... thank God! - We have a $70,000 deficit that we can sustain for no more than three years. I don't think that's bad news. I think that's a clarion call for action, and our relationship with LPA can be part of it. We need to take our own stewardship of this Cathedral seriously, but we also need to know that we cannot survive unless we form symbiotic relationships that are congruent with our mission with the city and neighborhood around us.

If this happens, when will LPA be using the space?
LPA is exploring a two-year arrangement. The 2013-14 school year they will have Kindergarten and first grade. From 2014-15 it will be K-2. They would move to a larger facility for the 2015-16 school year.

What space will be used? How will it be changed?
Nothing is finalized, but what is on the table right now is the 2nd floor Christian Education space being the primary classroom space, with the four classrooms on the East wall being converted to two larger classrooms and the Christian Education "office" being changed into a second bathroom.  Schuyler Hall would be used as whole-school meeting space and a lunchroom. The fifth floor offices would be used as school administrative offices and the former bookstore space on the ground floor would be the school front office. Letmar Hall would potentially be used as specialty classroom space in a way that suits the space (e.g. for art and music) but would still be usable by the choir. The gym would also be used for physical education.

The Property Committee, Canon Partridge, and the Sunday School teachers and parents will be consulted as changes are made so that our use of the space is impacted as little as possible. The Cathedral will not be responsible for any expenses and will retain veto power over all changes  up to and including paint color. All spaces currently available on Sundays will continue to be available on Sundays.

What are the financial arrangements and how will it be approved?
The wardens and I are currently working with LPA on a structure for a Common Area Maintenance agreement, in which LPA will pay a percentage of our utility, insurance, security and other expenses based on a percentage of square feet used/time used basis. The final agreement will likely be backloaded to the second year of the contract because the school's state funding is awarded at the end of the first year (e.g. year 1 - 10% of CAM, year 2 - 190% of CAM). At no time will CCC pay out of pocket expenses or be responsible for use or fee increases.

Any final contract must be approved by the LPA board, Chapter and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Missouri ... as well as be vetted by the diocesan chancellor.

Why is this important for Christ Church Cathedral?
Pretty much answered that above! As I preached two Sundays ago, whatever Christian values we discern that God is calling us to embody, I am convinced it will be a life lived not for ourselves but for the world ... because that's what the Gospel clearly states.

What do you think?
What do you think of having a charter school use the BTM? What opportunities about this excite you? Are there concerns you have? What other opportunities can you imagine for us to engage the world and let the world engage us?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Studying alcohol use at Christ Church Cathedral -- Why this? Why us? What is this? Why now?

Thursday night, Chapter unanimously voted to engage in six hours of education (two of which will be offered to the entire Cathedral) on "the evidences and impact of alcohol use on congregational life and leadership." The training will be led by the Rev. Dale Kuhn, executive director of Care and Counseling.

I imagine there are at least four questions that come to mind:

Why this? Why us? What is this?  Why now?

Why this?

The simple answer is that as the Body of Christ, we are called to be concerned with the health of each and every member and of the entire body. Approximately 15% (or more than 1 in 7) Americans have a problem with alcohol. 

But that in itself isn't the whole answer. Why not smoking or obesity? Why alcohol? Two reasons:

*In Chapter's discussion of the diocesan alcohol policy and our affirmation that our goal was not prohibition but a "healthy relationship with alcohol," stories surfaced of instances where congregational leaders had showed up to serve at the altar or work on a committee or project impaired by alcohol. We agreed that we needed to equip ourselves and the Cathedral at large with how to respond to these situations lovingly and in ways that promote health and healing.

*As we (specifically the Dean, Vicar, senior warden Bob Schleipman and junior warden Tom Edelmann) explored this further with people at Care and Counseling, we were educated and reminded about the powerful effects alcohol and substance abuse has on family systems -- and both the Cathedral and the Diocese are family systems. I hope you'll take five minutes and read an excellent short article by Bishop Chilton Knudsen on alcohol abuse and church systems here -- this will say much better than I what we are talking about ... and why it's important for us to be as aware, educated and equipped as possible.

Why us?

On one level, the answer is: "Why not us?"  Every congregation could benefit from this. But there are several reasons why it's particularly good for us to engage in this:

*St. Louis is a brewery town and alcohol is a big part of our culture. If we are to not only be healthy but minister in this community, we need to be educated about its effects.'

*Alcohol use has been a big part of the culture at Christ Church Cathedral ... so we need to know as much as possible so we can make sure our relationship with alcohol is a healthy one.

*We are the mother church of the diocese ... a diocese that within the past 20 years has had a bishop undergo treatment for alcohol abuse while in office. This is an issue here not just for CCC but for the whole diocese ... and as the Cathedral we have an opportunity and obligation to be leaders in engaging it in a healthy manner.

What is this?

Chapter has approved a three-part process.

1) Engage the Chapter in two two-hour conversations about the impact of alcohol abuse on cognitive functioning and judgment.

2) Offer two Sunday morning one-hour seminars to members of the congregation on the impact of alcohol abuse on family and system dynamics -- exploring, for example, the rules of "Do not talk, trust, and feel."

3) Assist in the development of a "graceful no-tolerance" policy for the parish and its leaders (estimate two hours)

There are three goals for outcomes:

1) An increased comfort level about talking about the role of alcohol and family systems.

2) An agreed on strategy on how to respond to those whose use of alcohol interferes with parish life.

3) An opportunity for leadership to establish standards for the acceptable use of alcohol at Cathedral functions.

The Bishop supports us in this and, in fact, believes so much in the benefits of this work not just for the Cathedral but -- particularly through educating diocesan reps on Chapter -- for other congregations in the diocese, his office has agreed to pay the $600 fee for the training. 

Why now? 

Again, the simple answer is ... why not now? There really is no time like the present. But this is also an especially appropriate time to do this work. We are just beginning a broad-based visioning process to discern what our shared values are as a Cathedral ... what we believe God dreams for us to be about. That is a process of discernment and self-knowledge ... and we need to be aware of the effect that powerful things like alcohol and other addictive substances are having on us and be able to make informed, proactive decisions for the health of this part of the Body of Christ.

Why is this important for Christ Church Cathedral?

I've said it above. God dreams for us to live holy, healthy lives -- both as individuals and as the Body of Christ.  This is important both for our own health and also for our role as leaders in the diocese. It is part of building a strong foundation for the next century of Christ Church Cathedral and beyond.

What do you think?

What do you think about our engaging this and how we are going about it? What good things can you see coming out of it? What makes you nervous or anxious about it? This is a sensitive topic, and the internet is generally not a great medium for discussing sensitive topics ... so please come to me, Amy or any Chapter member and be in conversation with us about this in person. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Letter to the Editor on "marriage equality" -- What and Why

Dear editor,

As a Christian and a U.S. citizen, I stand against the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and in support of our President in his support of so-called "marriage equality."

Different faiths view marriage differently, but marriage is first and foremost a covenant of faith and has been for millennia. Marriage is not for the state to define. The state's job is to define what legal arrangements people can enter into and give equal access to them. As a citizen, I find Amendment One to be legislative over-reaching. As a Christian, I find it presumptuous and offensive.

For Christians, marriage is about a joining together in Christ, a sign of Christ's love to a broken world. Jesus spoke regularly about the quality of love to which we were called and not at all about the gender of the people involved. As a Christian, I believe particularly in an age where commitments are too often treated as suggestions, two people who are willing to stand before God and in the midst of their community and pledge to love one another as Christ has loved us until they are parted by death should be embraced, celebrated, and supported ... not rebuffed.

The Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral

Tonight, I sent the preceding letter to the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis American - whether it will ever see the light of day beyond this blogpost is anyone's guess. but I wanted to share it with you all and let you in on my process of deciding to write it.

Chapter is prayerfully wrestling with what the role of Christ Church Cathedral should be in political and social action. I am continually wrestling with a related but separate question ... the role of the Dean. And so, as I watched the statements of support of marriage equality pour in following the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and President Obama's statement today, I wrestled with whether I should add my voice to the throng.

I was hesitant for several reasons:

*Because I believe the Church runs off the rails when we substitute a goal of being politically and socially relevant for our call to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."(BCP, p. 855)

*Because it should go without saying that particularly in an age where commitments are treated as suggestions, two people who are willing to stand before God and in the midst of their community and pledge to love one another as Christ has loved us until they are parted by death should be embraced and celebrated, not rebuffed.

*Because it is not my experience that letters to the editor foster prayerful, learned, concerned dialogue ... something that is in short supply. Instead, it would likely elicit congratulations from people agree with me and vitriol from those who disagree with me.

Obviously, I overcame that hesitation, but I want to share with you why.

*This is about reconciling all people to God and each other in Christ. I said before that I would only be making statements "as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral" if I believe there is a Gospel imperative at stake. It is clear to me that there is. Marriage is about a joining together in Christ. It is "a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world." We need to be clear both the invitation and the support for incarnating that love is available to all.

And also ... we do need to defend our turf. As I said in the letter, marriage equality as a legal issue is a case of the state sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. We have enough work to do on marriage ourselves without the government muddying the waters.

*It should go without saying ... but of course nothing goes without saying. And particularly because many who are promoting things like Amendment One are using the name of Jesus and the language of our faith in their arguments, it is up to those of us who believe differently to say so clearly.

Neither of these things address my third hesitation, so let me just say I truly want to be in prayerful, learned, respectful dialogue with people who feel differently.  So if you feel differently out of fear, I want to help assure you that God's love is deep and broad and not scarce at all and you need not fear at all. If you feel differently out of honest faith, I want to listen together for God's wisdom that is beyond our own ... and maybe together find a way to be reconciled to one another in Christ and move forward together.

I have been blessed to have been mentored by two deeply faithful people -- Philip Turner and Ken Semon -- who believe differently from me in this area, and that is proof enough to me that people of deep faith who love Jesus can disagree and not have it be about hate or homophobia.

And as we prayerfully wrestle with our role as a Cathedral, it is my hope that Christ Church Cathedral can be a place where everyone knows they are welcome at the table and in the conversation. Where the rule of the community is prayerful, learned, respectful dialogue that seeks to dive into the mystery of God's wisdom and not just amplify our own. Where even if we decide we need to take a stand and proclaim what we believe to be Gospel truth ... that we take that stand with all humility, realizing that we follow one who found power not on a throne but on the cross.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Cathedral as Piazza

This weekend, we welcomed Dean Tracey Lind of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland as our Flower Sunday preacher. On Saturday, in place of what used to be the Flower Festival, we invited clergy and lay leaders from around the diocese to spend time with Dean Lind in conversation around the vision that has shaped her Cathedral home - The Church as Piazza.

Tracey described this vision of church as being "where the sacrament of the table meets the sacrament of the map."  It is the idea of church as sacred public space.

Let me say that again. The church is sacred public space.

That's a big shift. Instead of the corporate business model of the church being our storefront -- marketed and controlled by us ... and in competition with others -- it is a more ancient and expansive model. We live as a house with our doors wide open. The focus is not on ourselves but always on the guest. We live to serve ... and who we serve in each person who comes through is Christ.

Like a piazza, the church at its best is a gathering place with a wide variety of activity. It is sacred space, so we set that boundary and we help the community enforce it together. But we are always looking at how we can give ourselves away.

In many ways, Tracey's vision is what we have been talking a lot about these past three years together ... about the Cathedral's historic role as community gathering place. It is learning to view our relationship with Christ Church Cathedral not as ownership but as stewardship. It's what I wrote about in March when I talked about our call to "Have Less and Be More."

As we spent time with Tracey and learned about the amazing ways this piazza ecclesiology has been incarnated in Cleveland, many connections started forming in my mind and heart:

*I thought of last Friday when Waller McGuire of the St. Louis Public Library took a group of us on a hard hat tour of the nearly-completed Central Library ... and then gathered us around a table and asked us (the St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, the head of the Sheldon, a local developer, the head of the Shakespeare Festival, the program director of the Contemporary Art Museum and me) "how can we use this place to serve the community?"  That's piazza thinking! We can be doing that, too!

*I thought of the women of Magdalene in Nashville who talked about the experience of being given a key to the house and being told "this is your home." The thought that someone would entrust them with something that precious and beautiful was life-changing and converting to them. How can we give everyone who walks through our door that same kind of experience of "this is your home" in a way that invites them to really own it, too ... and have it change their lives.

*I thought of the potential not just of the Cathedral and the BTM but of the entire city block on which we stand. What would it be like to do what Trinity did in Cleveland and literally create a Commons ... a community space where people of all sorts could come together and create great beauty and be a place of reconciliation for the whole city and region?

*I thought of the work our diocesan Chapter representatives are starting, going to all the people of the Diocese of Missouri and asking them to dream about what they think God wants Christ Church Cathedral to be ... a process that will be in tandem with the Cathedral congregation house meetings this summer that will ask our own congregation the same question. That's piazza thinking, too. Inviting others to take part in the work of defining us. Realizing that God's dreams for Christ Church Cathedral are not just dreams for those who come and sit in the chairs on Sunday morning.

Tracey talked about the Church as piazza as living into the truth that we are called to the Way of the Cross ... and that the cross is the great intersection of all humanity and all life. As the neighborhood around us wakens from its slumber and springs to life ... the Park Pacific, the Library, the Peabody, the SLU Law School, Washington Avenue, Library Park, Lucas Park ... God is gifting us with the opportunity to be the cross that the community stands at the foot of ... and sings and dances and argues and plays and discusses and heals at the foot of.

In Italy, the piazza is the center of the city ... the place everyone knows to gather when something is happening. That sounds a lot to me like what God is dreaming for Christ Church Cathedral.

What does this mean for Christ Church Cathedral?
It could mean everything. 2012 is a year of discerning our shared, core values ... discerning what God dreams for us. In the next month, if you're a member of the Cathedral congregation, you'll be given the opportunity to sign up for house gatherings to have this conversation. If you're an Episcopalian in another part of the diocese, you can click here and answer a brief survey that will let you dream along with us. If you're a part of the St. Louis region, it means dreaming with us about how our Cathedral, the BTM and even the whole city block might come alive to serve the people of God downtown.

What do you think?
What do you think of the idea of Church as Piazza or Cathedral as gathering place? It's a model that, like Christ himself, is predicated on giving away power? What excites you and frightens you about that? What groups or organizations in the city should we be reaching out to for a gathering like what the Central Library did? What big dreams do you think God might be dreaming for us as we approach our 200th year?