- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Washington National Cathedral reopened Sunday with the first public service since an earthquake in August did millions of dollars in damage to the soaring Northwest church.

“Thank you for your patience and support,” the Rev. Canon Jan Cope, the cathedral vicar, said before the audience erupted in cheers. “This has been quite an extraordinary pilgrimage. There are lessons all around about opportunity.”

The service marked the second event at the cathedral over the weekend and began a weeklong series of events to celebrate the reopening, including concerts and an interfaith day of prayer on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde was installed as the ninth bishop of the Washington Episcopal Diocese, becoming the first woman to have that job.

She asked the roughly 2,000 people who attended the service to see the Aug. 23 earthquake and the ongoing recovery as a time to strengthen and rebuild.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde greets a churchgoer after a service Sunday at the National Cathedral. The 51-year-old was installed Saturday as the ninth bishop of the Washington Episcopal Diocese. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde greets a churchgoer after a service Sunday at ... more >

“Not just for the building itself, but for what our church is for, what the cathedral is for: a spiritual base where we can renew our inspiration and our strength,” the 51-year-old said.

Much of the estimated $15 million in damage must still be repaired. The church bells are ringing again, and on Sunday churchgoers returned on a splendid fall morning.

But signs of continued recovery are still in full view, including the netting below the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings to catch debris and the exterior scaffolding that secures the pinnacles that cap the neo-Gothic cathedral’s towers.

The 104-year-old cathedral, the sixth largest in the world, has served as the site for numerous national purposes, including memorial services, the state funeral of President Ronald Reagan and inaugural prayers services for new presidents since 1985.

Muriel Inabnet, 61, of Greensboro, N.C., said she was moved to tears upon hearing the cathedral would be reopened.

“I’ve been coming to this cathedral since 1975,” said Ms. Inabnet, dressed in a dark cape and brown hat. “I can remember when there was no stained glass. When I heard about the earthquake and that the cathedral had been damaged, I broke down on my knees and cried.”

Most of the damage to the 300-foot-tall structure is not easily seen from the ground, but the 5.8-magnitude quake cracked ornate structures known as flying buttresses and dislodged heavy chunks of stone, even knocking one piece more than 100 feet to the ground.

The trouble continued for weeks. Insurance didn’t cover the damage so cathedral officials have to embark on a national fundraising campaign. And two weeks after the quake, a 500-ton crane helping repair the damage upended alongside the cathedral, crushing several cars and damaging two buildings on the campus.