- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

The National Cathedral, which plans to have construction on its underground parking lot finished by this weekend, is preparing for its upcoming centennial in September with a host of new programs.

Known as a church with a national constituency, the cathedral does not have a membership base like most churches. But one major change is that the cathedral will start acting more like a parish church by reaching out to local residents. It has already instituted coffee hours after the 9 and 11 a.m. services.

“The cathedral wants to meet people at whatever level they are and help them grow spiritually,” said the Rev. Christie Olsen, canon for community life. A series of meetings is slated for April 15, May 24 and June 10 to get input from the public on what changes are desired.

In May, the cathedral will start a new 7:30 p.m. Sunday service geared to people in their 20s and 30s.

“Washington is a mecca for young adults launching their careers,” said the Very Rev. Sam Lloyd, the cathedral dean. “They’re figuring out what they want to do professionally, and we would like to be a place where they can get support while they are beginning their careers, establishing relationships and growing spiritually.”

The cathedral recently formed a “20s and 30s group” that has begun a book club after the 11 a.m. Sunday service. It’s planning service projects, such as building a house for the poor, and creating a support group for job hunters and job switchers.

Starting in the fall, a new 10 a.m. Sunday forum will feature lectures by well-known speakers.

The Cathedral College — formerly known as the College of Preachers — will offer classes to the public, including courses on Dante, women of the Bible, the black church, and Disciples of Christ in Community: A popular ecumenical class that explains the psychological need for God and fellowship.

From May 10-12, the Cathedral College will host a forum for top theologians to discuss the future of the 21st century church. Its dean, the Rev. Howard Anderson, aims to make the college a national center for religious discourse. The college will also begin a distance learning program in the fall with the help of adjunct faculty around the country.

The cathedral is also working with black churches to bring about affordable housing, and improvements within the D.C. public schools. In mid-March, it participated in a rally to hold D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty accountable to his campaign promises. The cathedral has begun a summer program for seventh- and eighth-graders called TEEP, a leadership training program for poor black and immigrant students from public schools throughout the city. It also has a similar program for high school students called Cathedral Scholars, which includes internships in the public and private sector.

The cathedral is also organizing the Committee of Seventy East, a gathering of community leaders and ministers from across the eastern part of the United States to discuss ways to solve the nation’s urban social programs. Hosted by the dean and canon missioner the Rev. William Barnwell, the cathedral hopes to hold similar conferences nationwide.

In September, the cathedral will partner with the Friends of St. Benedict to create a Community of Reconciliation, a national organization of lay people who take a vow to offer their lives in service to others. They will commit to a life of prayer, study, community and action. Oblates have advisers called “spiritual companions” whom they will meet with on a regular basis for prayer and spiritual direction.

“You don’t have to be a member of the cathedral to join, and you can come from any Christian denomination,” said its program director, Canon Eugene Sutton. Once a year all oblates will make an annual pilgrimage to the cathedral.

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