As part of my “In Search of the Early Church” class that I took last year, we did a section on Medieval Cathedrals. In a time when most parishioners were illiterate, the Cathedral became a visual experience to teach the gospel; both symbolically, through the layout of the building and also through the stories told in the stained class windows, frescos and statuary. In one discussion, I bemoaned the fact that we did not have such magnificent cathedrals in the United States. A fellow student reminded me that we have Washington Cathedral in our nation’s capital. So, when I was visiting Washington D.C., I made it a point of attend church there. It left an indelible impression that I wish I could somehow convey through words, but like so many things in life I think it could only be experienced.
The building is magnificent in size and beauty. Sitting on a hill it can be seen throughout the city. The music was heavenly. The sermon spoke to my soul and worshiping, surrounded my so many fellow Christians was empowering. Two things touched me deeply. One was a humble prayer given by an African American woman. She asked the Lord to “bless Brother Barack that he would have the wisdom to know how to deal with the crisis in the Gulf.” In our highly partisan world it was nice to hear not criticism, but a simple prayer for “Brother Barack.” My other experience was in taking communion. As the Bishop invited all who were believers to come to the feast, I understood what the word “communion” truly symbolized. I understood “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The congregation reverently lined up to ascend to the altar and receive the bread and wine. Represented were so many different nationalities, people from all walks of life, all sharing a common religious experience. It brought tears to my eyes. As is the custom in the Episcopal Church, all drank from the same cup. I chose to dip my wafer in the cup of wine—I regret that now. There is something symbolic about sharing a common cup—it is what families do, including the family of man. On this July Fourth, I count my blessings to live in “one nation, under God, indivisible” and I will continue to pray for freedom and justice for all—and for strength and wisdom for Brother Barack.