March 24, 2020
A Message from Dean Thomason
Cathedral Update: One Body, Many Parts
Dear friends,
As we approach two weeks since the first public health directives upended our normal routines, with many in the interim faced with job loss, school closures, and the threat of illness coming too close, I am keenly aware that the stress of this disruption and the weight of the burgeoning health care crisis are bearing down on us, collectively and individually. It is difficult in the moment to find an unimpeded path to resolution and a return to normalcy (whatever that may look like). None of us are certain how long this will last, and that naturally enough prompts anxiety. And there is a deep sense of grieving intermingled in it all.
I name all of this, having had personal conversations or email exchanges with literally hundreds of you in recent days—I name all of this as we prepare for a very unusual Holy Week, and I am acutely aware of the fact that we are making our journey to the cross of Good Friday this year like no other year in living memory. But we do so ever-enlightened by the hope of resurrection. We are resurrection people, and we are called to live in a way that does not gloss the harsh realities of life, but rather holds those struggles in the context of resurrected life, trusting that something new is in the works, even if we can’t quite make it out just yet. That hopeful anticipation is stirring in me, and has me up each morning pondering all the ways we continue as community in these times, dark as they may feel in any given moment. We are ”both-and” people, and with that in mind, I want to share some details with you here.
First, we will make our way through Holy Week, and through this pandemic, trusting that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8). We will have an online-only worship service on Easter Day, April 12, and we are also already planning an “Easter Redux” on the first Sunday after the Cathedral reopens, whenever that may be. We will rise to the occasion together! I remain confident that this day is coming, so let yourself long for that, too, even as we make our way day by day now. And we will continue to offer worship and other ways to gather along the way.
As you know, I’m a scientist by training, and I seek data to inform decisions. A significant part of that data involves the financial realities for the cathedral, and so I am sharing some of that data (and planning) with you all here:
  1. One Body, Many Parts. The generosity of this community has positioned Saint Mark’s Cathedral well to weather the storm, and help others as we do. But it will not be easy. I recognize that some in this community have lost their jobs, or likely will, and that may necessitate changes in their financial pledges. Do so as you need, let Erik Donner know, and know it is okay. But stay connected regardless. And let us know how we, as a community, can be of support. “We are one body” (1 Corinthians 12).
  2. Pastoral Care/Clergy Discretionary Fund. The clergy have a discretionary fund to assist those in need. We fund it with honoraria for weddings and funerals, and many people make gifts to support this work also. In recent days, we’ve spent about $5000 helping people—emergency relief in the form of grocery gift cards, rent assistance, help with medical bills, or support provided to ministries to those experiencing homelessness. We’ve also contributed to Bishop Rickel’s appeals for COVID-19 relief funds that help others across our region and the broader church. There will be more need expressed in the coming days, and if you are inclined to support that, please make a gift to the Clergy Discretionary Fund.
  3. Pledges. The cathedral income is remarkably diminished and will become even more so. Nearly all plate contributions, all facility rental and parking income has disappeared, and the endowment earnings are dramatically decreased. Pledge income represents 70% of our budget, and so we ask everyone who can do so, please keep your pledges current, or even pre-pay them.
  4. Staffing. Staff compensation and benefits represents just over 60% of the total cathedral operating budget, and this resource translates into a broad array of ministry in this place. We are committed to keeping the cathedral staff fully employed as long as possible, and all ministry programming intact, reviewing the situation monthly. We believe that is the just thing to do.
  5. Spending. We have instituted a hiring freeze and have enacted other interventions including curtailing discretionary spending.
I know that talk of money makes some uncomfortable, especially when uncertainty hangs thick in the air, but by speaking of it here, openly with you all, I hope we might see it as one more way we are called to be together—a proxy, if you will, of our connection to community—this community for which we are all called to be stewards because we are, indeed, one body, many parts, and together we will find our way. I am,
Your Brother in Christ,
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector