January 8, 2020
My Dear Friends,

This past Saturday, January 4, 2020, the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, the seventh Dean of our Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, died peacefully at home, surrounded by family. Dean Morton was a singular figure in the life of the Cathedral and the Episcopal Church. During his twenty-five years as Cathedral Dean (1972-1997), he shepherded the Cathedral's growing prominence as a religious and cultural center for the city and the nation. Profoundly dedicated to interfaith relations, he brought together people of different religions into respectful dialogue and genuine friendship. He also strengthened the Cathedral's commitment to the arts, environmental advocacy, and outreach to the poor. His leadership brought a renewed flourishing of the Cathedral's life and mission. To honor his legacy, and to commend his soul to God, I invite you to join me in prayer and at his funeral.
Requiem Eucharist
Saturday, January 11, 2020
6:00 p.m.
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

The Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, Presiding

Welcome by
The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III,
Cathedral Dean

Words by
James P. Carroll, Author
The Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer,
Director of the Interfaith Center of New York

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Born in Houston, Texas, Jim spent his childhood in the university settings where his father taught theatre arts. He arrived for his own education at Harvard University as an atheist, but soon was drawn to the teachings and witness of leaders who combined the religious quest with social action. During his education, also at Cambridge University, he began to seek spiritual answers in various religious traditions, an exploration that became part of his spirituality throughout his life. Drawn to the Episcopal Church, he pursued his seminary formation at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and, in 1954, was ordained a priest in our diocese. A few days later, he married his beloved wife, Pamela. With a particular interest in serving the urban poor, he began his ordained ministry in Jersey City, then went on to head the national Episcopal Church's urban ministry effort. In 1964, he helped to found and became Director of an urban training center for Christian mission in Chicago to train clergy of many denominations in ministering to the urban poor. While in Chicago, he watched on television, along with the nation, the first moon landing, and the view of our fragile earth in space; this he said, moved creation care to the center of his theology. Then, in 1972, he was called to the Cathedral as Dean.
For a quarter century, all of who Jim was, from his familial background in the arts, to his keen interest in different religions, to his commitment to the urban poor and to God's creation, combined with his visionary leadership to shape the Cathedral's mission. He started a program, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, to reclaim abandoned housing in the city and rebuild it through owners' labor, creating more than 20,000 apartments. During his tenure, after a hiatus of more than four decades, building of the unfinished Cathedral resumed, with unemployed neighborhood youths enlisted as stone-cutting apprentices taught by master stonemasons. Artist-in-residence Philip Petit famously walked the high-wire across Amsterdam Avenue to set the first stone. In 1984, the Cathedral's first St. Francis Day festival was held, a signature Cathedral worship service to this day, full of joyful theatricality dedicated to God, and featuring Paul Winter and Paul Halley’s Missa Gaia (Earth Mass) and the popular procession of animals. The Cathedral began to play a global role in environmental matters and creation stewardship, bringing together prominent religious leaders and scientists. That same year, the American Poet's Corner was inaugurated in the Cathedral's Arts Bay to remember and honor the nation's prominent writers. As the city and nation faced the ravages of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the Cathedral dedicated the AIDS Memorial in the Medical Bay, in 1985, establishing a Book of Remembrance in which the names of people who have died from complications of AIDS are inscribed. Under Jim's leadership, the Cathedral thrived amid the intellectual exchange of ideas, the sheer delight which the arts bring, and the ability of religion to speak in the public square on matters of public policy. Jim welcomed not only social justice advocates and scientists into the pulpit, but also civic leaders, including Václav Havel and Mayor David Dinkins, who convened the city at the Cathedral in 1991 to pray for an end to racial tensions in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. 
Jim's greatest legacy was the nurture he brought to interfaith and ecumenical relations, establishing the Cathedral as a prominent meeting place for religious clerics, scholars, and artists. One of the first major symposiums he organized for the Cathedral, in June 1974, was a week-long gathering of Jewish and Christian leaders to confront the Holocaust, in an open, multi-disciplinary exchange. The week-long event featured dozens of prominent speakers, poets, and performers, including such distinguished guests as Elie Weisel, Walter Burghardt, SJ, and Rosemary Ruether. Considering the escalating pattern today of anti-Semitic violence across America and in our own New York, we can look back with gratitude upon Jim's exemplary dedication to loving one's neighbor across religious difference, and to the possibility each one of us has to grow spiritually by a genuine and respectful encounter with other faith traditions. He manifested this dedication throughout his Cathedral years, and then following them. In 1997, upon his departure as Cathedral Dean, he founded the Interfaith Center of New York, a non-profit whose work is to overcome prejudice, violence, and misunderstanding by activating the power of the city's grassroots religious and civic leaders.
As an artist, I have long appreciated Jim's understanding of art as means for devotion to God. Over his life, Jim amassed an impressive collection of over 300 pieces of religious art, which he and Pamela generously gave to the Cathedral a few years ago. Works in the James Parks Morton Interfaith Art Collection are currently on view in the Cathedral's Education Bay, and as an act of prayer for Jim's entry into the larger life, I encourage you to spend some time with this art. It is quite moving to see the faith expressions of the artists in the Cathedral, chartered to be a house of prayer for all people. You may also wish to visit Edwina Sandys’  Christa  in the Cathedral's Chapel of Our Saviour. To both praise and controversy, Jim first brought this sculpture, which depicts a naked and vulnerable woman hanging on a Cross and wearing a crown of thorns, to the Cathedral in the 1980s, as part of a small exhibition on the feminine divine. I am honored that, during my own episcopacy, we have placed the Christa permanently above an altar.
Although a man of big ideas, Jim was humble about himself, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He and Pamela celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on December 30th, and yesterday would have been his 90th birthday. To Pamela, to her daughters Polly, Sofia, and Maria, who faithfully cared for Jim in his last years, and to their wider family, I extend my condolences and pledge the loyalty of our diocese and the Cathedral. Letters and cards of sympathy may be sent to them c/o Laura Bosley, Office of the Dean, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025. The family requests that charitable donations in Jim's memory be given to the Cathedral , the Interfaith Center of New York , or Calvary Hospital .
Please remember our brother James in your prayers and at your altars, and pray for his family and all who mourn. With every good wish, I remain,

Dietsche sig

 The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
Bishop of New York