Taking it On the Road: The Cathedral Choir Tour of 2018

After two years of planning and preparation, the Cathedral Choir and some additional travelers will depart for Coventry Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.  Why in the world would anyone undertake such a project?

A choir tour is great fun for the singers.  It’s a chance to travel abroad, sing in wonderful places that you would not be able to sing on your own, and visit sights you would not see otherwise.  It builds camaraderie within the group.  It enhances the musicality of the choir.  It’s great for the choir.  But there are other aspects.  It’s a pilgrimage, a time for personal reflection and spiritual renewal.  Individuals are moved to depths they might never otherwise experience.  It also allows us to bring a bit of the US, Erie, the Episcopal Church and our Diocese to those who hear us sing.  We’re ambassadors, perhaps even evangelists! The majority of the music we will be singing is by American composers, including Harry T. Burleigh.  We’ll be bringing copies of our CD to distribute to share the story and music of Burleigh and his connection to our Cathedral and city.

Here are some quotes from individuals on our last two choir trips that illustrate the impact:

“It was the trip of a lifetime which we will always cherish.  It certainly left a mark on us spiritually and made us proud to be Episcopalians.”  “Much had been spoken in advance about the pilgrimage aspect of our trip but I was thinking of it only as a vacation.  However, our first night singing at Canterbury Cathedral it hit me during the anthem of what I was doing.  I knew that if I gave into those feelings I would not be able to finish the piece so in true “stiff upper lip” mode, I pressed on.  That was a moment I will remember for a long time.” 

On this trip, August 3-13, we have 24 singers, most of whom are regular members of the Cathedral Choir.  Our organist, Ethan LaPlaca, grew up in Erie, earned a degree in music education and organ from Duquesne and now teaches in Mt Lebanon.  He has been coming to Erie this past year to play for Evensongs as we prepared the repertoire for the trip.  In additional to the singers, we have family members and friends who will travel with us, bringing the total number of our group to 41.

We begin with a weekend in Coventry where we will sing for the morning Eucharist and Evensong.  Coventry is unique, having been bombed in WWII and later rebuilt, preserving the ruins.  Dean Witcombe writes on their website: “It is a wonderful and renewing place for anyone of any age to visit. The narrative of chaos and destruction being taken and offered back to God, issuing in resurrection and new life, is one that speaks into the reality of lives of many of our visitors. The Cathedral is a physical expression of hope, of love, and of celebration.” 

The majority of our time will be spent in Oxford, with the choir singing daily services at 6:00 pm from Tuesday through Sunday.  We also sing for Choral Matins and the Eucharist on Sunday morning.  And there will still be time for some touring each day before our daily choral services.

Dean Downey will be preaching at the morning Eucharist while we are in Coventry. He will also serve as the Officiant at Evensongs while in Oxford.  Deacons Dorothy Konyha and Richard Nygaard will be traveling with us, too.  Look for updates about our adventures while we are away. Please pray for safe travels and new encounters with God’s grace and glory.

Sharon Downey is Canon Musician for the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie. 

Hold On! Keep Your Hand On The Plow

The Cathedral Choir is about to introduce a new CD.  That sounds as if we do this often; we do not.  Our first and only other CD was recorded about 25 years ago.  This new one is a recording of African-American spirituals arranged by Harry T. Burleigh.  So why would the Cathedral Choir make a recording of African-American spirituals?  For us at the Cathedral of St Paul, it was quite simple: we wanted to bring the music and life story of this most remarkable man to the people of Erie, the diocese and beyond.  It is our way of “living history” and making it relevant in contemporary time.

Spirituals are a significant part of American choral literature.  The melodies are true American folk songs, passed on by oral tradition.  Burleigh’s arrangements transformed the simple melodies he learned from his grandfather on the streets of Erie into classic art songs and choral works using his distinctively American harmonic language.  Some are quite jazzy!  His music is especially important to us at the Cathedral of St Paul because of his connection to Erie and our church.  We have continued to learn more and more of his arrangements.  Some are fairly simple and some are quite difficult.  Following the celebration of the Cathedral’s Centennial  a few years ago, we were encouraged to make a recording of his music.  I was a bit hesitant to take on such a project.  Singing live is one thing; recording is quite another.   Live performances bring his music to life but in order to share it with a broader audience, we needed to record it.   And there was no better time or place to do it: we have an exceptional group of singers right now and we are in the very place where Burleigh first sang as a young boy and teenager.  He received the sacraments at St Paul’s and his musical foundation was formed in this building.  It just seemed right to move forward with the project.

We hired a local company and spent two days in March recording.  Over the next several months I worked with him on finding the best takes of the choir and soloists and came up with our final product.  Many hours were also spent finalizing the design and information to be included on the cover.  But we expect delivery of the final product this week!

That bring us to the release of the CD, Hold On! Keep Your Hand on the Plow.  On Sunday, November 5, at 4:00 PM, the Sunday following All Saints’ Day, we’ll commemorate the life of Harry T. Burleigh with a traditional Choral Evensong followed by the singing of some of his spirituals and an opportunity to purchase the CD.  There will be a festive reception, and more Burleigh spirituals, as well as an art display by one of our choir men, Jon Chisholm.  He has donated several of his works of art for silent auction the proceeds going to help with expenses of the choir’s trip to England next summer.

I am thankful for the encouragement and gifts from the Cathedral Chapter and members of the Cathedral of St Paul that made the production of this CD possible.   Special thanks to AJ Noyes for the cover design and to Jim Steadman for the cover photo.  And I am incredibly grateful for the Cathedral Choir, their countless hours of rehearsal and their devotion to bringing this music to life for all to enjoy.

Sharon Downey is Canon Musician for the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie. 

Engaging Community with National Night Out

The Cathedral of St. Paul participated in National Night Out on Tuesday, August 1st at Gridley Park on Erie’s lower west side. National Night Out is a national event which seeks to show unity, encourage everyone to play a role in supporting the education of youth in our neighborhoods, and to take a stand against crime in our city by building stronger police-community relationships .

More than 1,000 neighbors enjoyed the festivities from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on a beautiful  summer  evening at Gridley Park. All enjoyed a free hot dog dinner, fun games and activities in which parents and children were able to participate together, and listened and danced to a mix of local musical entertainment. There were also over two dozen social service agencies providing helpful information and giveaways.  Police, fire and emergency service providers gave tours of their vehicles and educated young and old about their services.

The event is grant funded through the Erie County United Way and additionally sponsored by five neighborhood watch groups and more than twenty five neighborhood businesses and churches.

As an inner-city church in the heart of downtown Erie, much of our outreach is focused on our neighbors and National Night Out is just one more example of our ministry to and with our neighbors and we are so thankful for the opportunity.

Cass Shimek is the Cathedral Administrator and is a member of the Our West Bayfront National Night Out Committee.

Love Them

This is a post about the partnership between the Cathedral of St. Paul and Emerson-Gridley elementary in the City of Erie public school district.

I remember it very well, my first-grade classroom at Asbury Elementary in Millcreek Township. I loved everything about it. I was so excited to finally be able to go to school and could hardly wait for the first day. My mother made me a special new dress; my name was embroidered on it so my teacher would know my name at a glance. Our desks were in neat rows and I sat in the front of the room. I remember this because our music teacher would roll the piano into our room right in front of my desk. I would watch her fingers fly across the keys, sparking my interest in piano lessons and asking my parents for a piano.

Now fast forward to this past February when I was heading into a first-grade classroom at Emerson-Gridley to volunteer. I had all of the clearances and training required and was excited about this opportunity. Probably not as excited as anticipating my own first-grade experience, but excited about spending time in a classroom. I have always felt the pull of becoming a classroom teacher, either in music or general education. My degrees are in organ performance, choral conducting and church music, applied music, not music education. At many points in my education and career I have considered adding teacher certification to my credentials. When the Cathedral began its partnership with Emerson-Gridley and the call for volunteers in the school came along, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to give it a try.

IMG_3012 (3)So my first day began by meeting the school guidance counselor who took me on a tour of all the first grade rooms ending in Mrs. Steele’s classroom. This is where I would be volunteering. Mrs. Steele welcomed me and introduced me to the class. The walls in the room were brightly decorated. There was a “Word Wall” with columns of words under each letter of the alphabet that the students were learning every week. There was a list of the children’s names on one board. I could only pronounce a few without help. The desks were grouped into three or four sections, not rows, and there was a carpet on the floor for story time. She asked the students to read at their desks and then called on a few children and me to sit with her to read aloud. We worked together to help students sound out words and read sentences. Once she saw I was comfortable working with her students she asked me to work with several children who needed some extra help with reading. We made flashcards and played relay games and all sorts of things to help them recognize the difference in their “w” and “wh” words. I was hooked. I knew my Monday mornings from then on would be spent with Mrs. Steele’s class at Emerson-Gridley.

As that first morning progressed, one student left the room and came back with a box of snack bags for the children filled with cherry tomatoes. Every day the students are given a mid-morning snack of fresh vegetables. They look forward to it. If the designated child doesn’t remember to go for it, she is reminded by her classmates. She always offers me a snack, too. She and others in the room often express concern that I might be hungry, too. The students all receive a hot breakfast before class begins, a mid-morning snack and lunch. Many stay after school for another snack and some for dinner before going home. Monday morning is difficult for them. Many do not have regular meals at home and they are very hungry when they come to school after a weekend. It is not unusual for several of them to fall asleep with their head on their desk while I am there.  There are lots of red and watery eyes looking up from a book or paper as they struggle to stay awake and concentrate.

Now they and I are anticipating the end of the school year. I have been going weekly and have developed a good relationship with the class. Mrs. Steele has given me the freedom to prepare a music lesson each week. We are working on developing a steady beat, following directions, using body percussion, chanting poems using their rhyming words and recently added playing percussion instruments. They love to share their latest achievements with me, “Mrs. Downey, did you know that I….” Now I share their mid-morning snack with them. We chat and giggle about the fresh green pea pods or juicy tomatoes or squishy cucumbers. I love the big smile that comes across each face when I call them by name. I love it even more when they cheer when they see me come through their classroom door with my bag of instruments. I think about each child often. They are now in my prayers, not just as students at the school but as individuals with names, faces and feelings. Some days I leave in tears because so many were overly tired and out of sorts. But more often than not, I leave with a big smile on my face and a happy heart.

The City of Erie schools are stressed. The administrators and the teachers are stressed. And most importantly, the students are stressed. A volunteer’s job comes with little stress: just show up and spend an hour or two a week in a classroom with some amazing children. Learn their names. Talk to them. Smile at them. Read to them. Love them. And pray for them and everyone who works to care for and nurture them. You will be hooked. And you will never be the same again.

Sharon Downey, Canon Musician, The Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie, PA 

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I Sincerely Thank Everyone – by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. This is her final post. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

IMG_1673Hello and welcome to my eighth blog post! As the school year is drawing to a close, this will be (at least for the foreseeable future) my last post; it has been an honor to share my various thoughts with all of you through the writings since the fall. In preparation for this entry, I went back and read several of the other posts I have published over the last year, including my very first one that I wrote at the end of last summer; it was fun to look back at the things I had forgotten that I had written about. It was inspiring, too, to read the activities I listed in my first post and think about what I’ve added to it in the past year.

When I graduate from high school in a few days shy of three weeks, I will also have graduated from The Vine, my community’s Episcopal youth group. I feel lucky to have participated in the group for the two years that I could, but I am thankful that such a great program exists for the kids who will still be around to enjoy it. In addition to adults and youth at my church, I know that there are people from other churches and beyond (including readers of this blog) who are hoping for my success, and that’s a pretty great feeling that I am fortunate to have.

Because of my experience writing this blog, I’ve become more aware of just how much of an impact my faith and my involvement in the church has on my life, and because of that awareness I’ve realized how important it is to me that I continue practicing that faith as I get older and gain the ability to make more independent decisions about my faith, as well as other aspects of my life. I’ve accepted the fact that the ways I practice my faith are subject to changes, both minor and significant; the church I currently attend won’t be an option for weekly Sunday services, so if I want to worship with a traditional congregation, I’ll have to seek out a parish (and if I happen to find more than one, I’ll have to decide which one best satisfies what I’m looking for). Maybe I’ll decide that it’s more convenient for me to express my faith more informally and individually for a while, which I think is just as much of a valid choice for anyone.

In less than one month I will return to Camp Nazareth for my final year as a camper, which is both terribly exciting and a little bit saddening. Even though I’m only there for one week of the year, camp and the people I have spent time with there are responsible for a large part of the formation of my faith throughout the past ten years. One of the best things about Camp Nazareth is that I associate it with so many fun times as well as with religion, and I think that’s critically important, especially for children but really for people of any age. Communities like Camp Nazareth and The Vine have helped me stick with my faith because they have showed me the real-life positive impact that my beliefs can have on other people, and they’ve taught me that living a life with Christ can be achieved in any number of ways, many of which are really awesome (like sliding down an enormous soap-covered Slip ‘N’ Slide with not only your fellow campers but the ministers as well).

Of course, anyone who’s read even a little bit of the Old Testament knows that religion isn’t fun all the time. It can cause some people to feel overwhelmed; other people cite the current condition of the world, as well as tragic events, as their reason for not believing in God or higher power in general. I understand that the concept of believing in something as malleable as God can feel like too much—or like too little, depending on your stance in this debate—and I have had flashes of doubt in how I believe and whether it can be enough for me. However, I have always been oddly willing to accept that God is beyond definition and I can only have the most basic idea of what His plans are for me or for anyone. I think that as long as I continue to enrich my life in all the ways that matter to me, such as through education and music and literature, and as long as I work to enrich the lives of others in as many ways as I am able, then I can be satisfied with the life that I am living, both for myself and for Christ. I sincerely thank everyone for following and guiding me through this process, and I wish you all the best in wherever life may take you!

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul Erie

Mission Conference 2016 – Adaptive Leadership

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The Church faces significant challenges.  Among these challenges are some that we call adaptive. These adaptive challenges are complex and our existing tools and strategies cannot adequately address them.  As a result, we are required to learn new skills and transform deeply held beliefs and values.  The Church faces an adaptive moment where we are being called to learn a new way of being, and the first step is to take ownership of our issues and our future.

Join us on Saturday, May 14, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie to take this first step as a diocese and as congregations.  Registration will begin at 9:30 AM, with the program beginning at 10:00 AM.  The program will end at 3:00 PM.  There is no cost to attend.  Lunch will be provided, with a freewill offering taken to help cover costs.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.  Registration will close on May 9.

If you have any questions, contact Vanessa.
Follow on Twitter @DioNWPA  #DioNWPAmc

Cathedral of St. Paul Source of Inspiration

It’s hard to believe that it’s already over two weeks since the North American Cathedral Deans’ Conference came to Erie. Without question, all our guests had a wonderful time; and as well as taking part in discussions and conference sessions, they showed enormous interest in the local community which was showcased beautifully in so many ways throughout their four-day visit. Under Dean Downey’s leadership, planning for the conference began well over a year ago, before the dean and Canon Musician Sharon Downey left for the 2015 conference in Jerusalem. So by the time the 2016 conference began in Erie on April 7th, a team of volunteers from the Cathedral had long been hard at work to make sure it would be the most perfect event in every way. The Cathedral of Saint Paul was to shine brilliantly for all four days.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 1.18.57 PMAs a conference and event planner, I know from experience what it takes to bring a major event to that perfect-opening-moment on site. But this was so different. Sharon had kept me constantly informed of the steps she was taking along the way, I knew everything was in place, every detail had been addressed. But the first thing I realized upon arrival in Erie was that the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Cathedral had completely adopted the conference and surrounded it with such love and warmth, it had a life of its own. This was not just business as usual, this event would share a message with congregations throughout North America and beyond, and it would be a reminder of how much we accomplish whenever we come together as Christians. Those attending the conference were welcomed like friends and family, and they were so touched by the warmth and hospitality of our Cathedral. It was an amazing, emotional and uplifting time. It had the personal touch and feel of everyone involved, staff and volunteers, who had given so much time to the planning. It was such a professional, well-run event, but at the same time there was a relaxing atmosphere of such ease and comfort. People were laughing about the freezing cold weather (not in the plan) while thoroughly enjoying the warmth of the welcome inside.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 1.13.54 PMJohn and Sharon Downey play important roles in the international organization of the North American Cathedral Deans – which is why the conference came to Erie this year. As many of us got to chat with our visitors, it became very clear that both the dean and Sharon are wonderful representatives of our church and diocese on the national front. One of the visiting deans mentioned that they were looking forward to finally hearing Sharon Downey play in her own venue for a change. Well she didn’t just “play” she played so splendidly it just took everyone’s breath away! The choir was simply amazing and several members performed separately during a tribute to Harry T. Burleigh. The hours of rehearsal for all of them must have been endless! But the church, packed to the rafters both Thursday and Sunday, felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and there was such gratitude, love and happiness in that beautiful House of God. The choir and entire congregation raised the rafters even higher as they sang so loudly proclaiming the gloriousness of the resurrection and celebrating the very presence of the Holy Spirit among us.   Never was the Peace of God exchanged so vigorously as it was that Sunday morning! Through it all, the magnificent old organ resounded so brilliantly I’m sure it was heard downtown as well, carrying our message of hope forward as the conference concluded.

12994463_1153312074701453_7107254429042034600_nCathedrals are usually in city centers and downtown areas and by nature have more transient congregations. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is no different in this, but we are extremely blessed to have continually attracted such amazing talent, not just to the music program but in leadership, teaching and most importantly what every church needs: a strong family of those who come to volunteer and serve the community, to do the work we are asked to do. It’s what we continue to do so well in our downtown Cathedral under the dean’s leadership. I’ve often heard Dean Downey mention the diversity in our diocese. Each church (including the Cathedral) has times of weakness and strength, we might worship and evangelize in different ways, but our goals are the same and in our diocese there is a healthy tolerance for diversity. So it was particularly meaningful, and quite humbling, when Bishop Sean told the deans in his welcoming speech, that the congregations of the diocese look up to the Cathedral of Saint Paul. That was such a meaningful statement. Growing up in England, cathedrals were always “ours.” Whatever your religion or place of worship, the great Cathedrals were the standard bearers of the Church of England and they were ours! They are rich with culture, history and great music. I hope the wonderful people in the Diocese of NWPA, will continue to look to the Cathedral of Saint Paul as a source of inspiration as we all seek to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in our corner of the world.

Diane Mitra

‘Courage To Follow A Call’ by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

Hello again and welcome to my seventh blog post! I hope that all of you are enjoying the return of spring and the Easter season. Easter is a universal time of joy in the church; although Lent was in my church a necessary and productive period of reflection, I was happy to enter into a multi-week celebration of Christ’s return that includes flowers throughout the church, loud hymns, and unapologetic use of the “alleluia.”

I have another piece of happy news to report—after much stress, research, and careful deliberation, I have decided that I will be attending the Honors College at Kent State University this fall! I made my last visit to another large research university, my second top choice, this past Thursday, and after that I felt I had all the information necessary to make my decision, and I wanted to go to Kent. I am looking forward to being a student of the Honors College and living in a dorm with other kids in that program, and I am excited to begin my studies as an English major under the direction of very competent and enthusiastic faculty. My brother will be around to help me if necessary, but we don’t expect to run into each other all the time, which is most likely a good thing.

12957437_1154559797910014_7548171173434636891_o  Earlier this month, my church had the pleasure of hosting the annual North American Conference of Cathedral Deans; as the name suggests, priests from cathedrals around the continent converge in a different location each year for a long weekend of discussion, prayer, and fellowship. The conference is not usually hosted in locations as humble as Erie, Pennsylvania (think Jerusalem and Hawaii), but the dean of my cathedral made a very convincing argument—the phrase “Rust Belt Chic” was mentioned more than once. I was not present for all the events of the conference, but our congregation was praised many times for their involvement in the entire process, including showing the deans around our (unfortunately cold) city, baking and arranging treats to be served after the Sunday service, and simply being visiting with our guests. My parents spoke repeatedly of the wide variety of friendly, interesting priests whom they had the pleasure of meeting; the deans included people from different generations, genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, reflecting the wide reaches of the bonds and acceptance of Christ, which is a wonderful aspect of the Episcopal church that has always made me proud to be a member.

12321334_564938103673208_5533117079208251553_n At the last gathering of The Vine, the Episcopal youth group in my community, we had the pleasure of having the Very Reverend Miguelina Howell come to speak to us. Rev. Howell currently serves as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, and when she was installed in early 2016 she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected dean of an Episcopal church in the United States. In addition to the short PowerPoint presentation she prepared, Reverend Howell spoke about her experience growing up in the Dominican Republic as well as preaching there and in the US. She told stories about her parents, and spoke very affectionately of her father, who was not formally educated but insisted upon education for his children. She talked about a camp that helps serve the youth of Santo Domingo, which seemed very similar to the church camp that I attend except that it operates year-round, helping better the lives of children who are often very poor and disadvantaged. I admired that she has done so much great work in the country where she grew up, but followed what she felt was her call to serve in the United States. It often takes a great deal of bravery to recognize exactly what our individual call to serve might be, and it requires even more courage to follow it, but great people like Reverend Howell have shown me that it can be done.

After the conference had ended, my dean gave a sermon that tied in the theme of the conference, which focused on the perseverance of faith in times of loss and hope. Cathedrals, he said, are different from regular churches because they are at the heart of the community, both in terms of location and involvement in the lives of the people whom they serve, and the Cathedral of St. Paul is involved in its community through varied efforts such as food pantry, outreach dinners, and special events such as the conference. Christianity, cathedrals, my community and similar communities across the country—each of these has experienced its own form of loss, from declining attendance to declining populations to financial uncertainty. Change is evident in every facet of life, and occasions like this conference give us a multitude of reasons to be hopeful; they show us that our work is appreciated, worth continuing, and far from finished.

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul

Deans’ Conference Highlights Loss and Hope

12957437_1154559797910014_7548171173434636891_oEighty deans and their spouses from Episcopal cathedrals in the United States, Canada, England and the Bahamas descended on Erie for 4 days, beginning on April 7th, for the North American Cathedral Deans’ Conference. This is the first time the conference was held in Erie, which was the perfect backdrop for the conference theme of Loss and Hope.

The deans arrived to a typical Erie welcome, temperatures in the thirties and a mix of rain and snow. Many of the deans expressed an excitement to be in Erie and to be a part of the discussion around loss and hope. Dean Leighton Lee from the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary, Alberta, said that he was especially excited to hear Sister Joan Chittister’s talk. He also mentioned that the theme of decline “speaks to all churches.” His sentiments were echoed by the Very Rev. Dr. Donald Brown, Dean Emeritus, from Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento, CA: “This is like a family reunion where one can network and generate ideas.” He also agreed that Sister Joan was a highlight and that he was looking forward to see Erie’s Cathedral of St. Paul at work in its own environment.

The conference began with Evensong, an Anglican tradition of evening prayers, psalms and canticles, which was followed by a talk from Sister Joan Chittister. Sister Joan, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA, is an influential religious and social leader. For 40 years she has advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues and church renewal. She spoke about a spirituality of struggle that leads to hope. She told the audience that transformation and change doesn’t always come when we want it but rather when we least expect it. She counseled that we can choose how we respond to loss by staying forever wounded or by engaging in a process of struggle that leads to change and transformation. During a question and answer session after her talk, Sister Joan discussed the Benedictine vow of stability, the notion that they commit to one place no matter the struggle. Sister Joan has committed to Erie.

Bishop Sean Rowe and his wife Carly hosted the deans at the Erie Club for dinner on their first evening. Bishop Sean spoke to the deans about how the congregations of the diocese look up to the Cathedral of St. Paul. He also commented that the Diocese is committed to the region of Erie just as Sister Joan is committed.

12994463_1153312074701453_7107254429042034600_nA cathedral, though a parish, has a mission to the larger diocese and to the community. This allows deans, the head of the cathedral, to take risks in the name of Christian justice for the larger community. The Very Rev. Dr. John Downey, dean of Erie’s Cathedral of St. Paul, sees the Cathedral as having the potential to be “the voice to the soul of the city.” His vision for this conference was to show that Erie’s Cathedral has “embraced loss and hope in our places and in our lives with realism and resilience, all within the horizon of the great hope celebrated at Eastertide.”

The keynote speaker for the first full day of the conference was the Very Rev. John 12998532_1154559187910075_2792845279713295376_nWhitcombe, dean of the cathedral in Coventry, England. The original cathedral in Coventry was destroyed by the Nazis in a bombing raid on November 14th, 1940. The dean spoke of how the building embodies loss and hope for the community. He talked about how cathedrals share in the life of the city: “When cities struggle the cathedrals do to.” He said, “There is a rich vein that runs through Coventry and it has run through it for the last 75 years and its roots lie in the Second World War and it is a vein of reconciliation.”

The conference also included local author Tom Noyes reading from his book “Come by here: A Novella and Stories,” and a presentation on school and cathedral partnerships where the panelists received a standing ovation. The conference was accompanied throughout by the music of Harry T. Burleigh. Henry Thacker Burleigh, whose grandfather was a slave, was an American singer and composer born in Erie in 1866. He made the musical and spiritual riches of the American Negro Spiritual available to vast audiences. Mr. Burleigh was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (now the Cathedral) where he also sang in the choir. As Dean Downey has said, “his music was all about loss and hope.”

12973169_1153309974701663_6144300669018867337_oOne of the highlights of the conference was the “Taste of Erie” night at the Cathedral, where local foods were highlighted and enjoyed by everyone. Dean Jep Streit from the Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston, MA, approached Dean Downey with a Smith’s hot dog in one hand and a glass of wine (provided by a Cathedral member) in the other. He exclaimed his joy at the pairing of the hot dog and “the finest Chardonnay.” Dean Downey replied, “That is Erie.”