Rhode Island cathedral to suspend services on financial grounds

Posted Feb 22, 2012

[Diocese of Rhode Island] The Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John in Providence, Rhode Island, announced Feb. 21 that, due to dwindling financial resources, its worship and pastoral services will be suspended after April 22.

The St. John’s building at 271 North Main will retain its status as the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. A cathedral serves as the seat of the bishop, the central place of pastoral and teaching ministries for all Episcopal churches in that diocese.

“The cathedral congregation has experienced serious financial difficulty, and a decision was made to suspend services for now,” said the Rt. Rev. David Joslin, the cathedral’s acting dean. “This decision, of course, was not made lightly or quickly. And additionally, it does not permanently close the cathedral; it only ceases the usual Sunday services and pastoral care.”

Joslin said that this financial situation has been evolving for many years, and has now come to the place where it needs to be addressed.

Members of the cathedral congregation are being welcomed to join Grace Church on Westminster Street in Providence, or any of the 52 Episcopal churches in Rhode Island. There are six other Episcopal churches located in Providence.

The Cathedral of Saint John, which was established as King’s Chapel in 1722, has been a continuing center for worship and outreach for 290 years. In 1794, the name of the church was changed to Saint John, and in 1929, the church became the official seat of the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, receiving its designation as the Cathedral of Saint John.

The last Holy Eucharist for the cathedral congregation will be held on Sunday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m., followed by a time to celebrate St. John’s many years of service.

Comments (9)

  1. The Rev. Dr. Robert R. Hansel says:

    Sad to hear. The Chapter and Bishop need to explore other ways of “being church.” The maodel they have been pursuing is financially and administratively impossible for a dwindling congregation, but there ARE other models.

  2. Emmetri Monica Beane says:

    This just infuses me with a tremendous sense of gratitude for my parish and reminds me not to take the blessing of our parish for granted. It is a message about looking at what it means to be church in the 21st century. Is it about physical structures anymore? Or how much of being church is about buildings? Finally, it is a reminder to me about the importance of stewardship of money. In church life, we still seem uncomfortable talking about money but it is important that we have open dialogs about it just like we have in our own households.

    1. Todd Gardner says:

      While I agree that we have to redefine “church” for the 21st century, the physical structure still has meaning. As a member of the choir of Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts, I have often said that the building truly is a house of God. I believe that:
      He spoke to a Composer in the 1500’s and said, “write beautiful music to my glory.”
      He spoke to an Architect in the 1700’s and said, “design a building to my glory.”
      He spoke to a Builder in the 1800’s and said, “build the building to my glory.”
      And then he spoke to me and said, “Sing that song in that building to my glory.”
      You can pray anywhere, but only in a Cathedral can certain music truly soar toward the Heavens.
      My deepest condolences, Providence.

  3. the Rev. Jan Griffin says:

    I’m sorry to read that resources have been dwindling for years, but it takes the suspension of services to admit that the situation needs to be addressed. The report is probably a simplification of actual concerns, but describes many churches I know of, where decline has been very evident for decades without any real attempts to change the situation.

  4. martha knight says:

    This truly saddens me. I resonate with deep gratitude for my parish in all of its rich ministries to both the local and global community. My prayers are with you.

  5. Phil Rountree says:

    I visited my son at college a few years ago in Providence. I was delighted to discover the cathedral was just about 10 blocks away. So, I called: no answer, no answering machine announcing the worship times. I went on my son’s computer: no website (!!!!!). How do you expect anybody to come to your church if you won’t communicate with the outside world? I went to the Episcopal Church instead right on the Brown campus, and there were about 25 people in this huge Gothic edifice at the main service. Zero college students in attendance. The era of just putting up an Episcopal Church sign and expecting people to show up ended about 50 years ago. The good old Episcopal Church soldiers on as if nothing has changed. “We need to raise more money,” they say. What they really need is to start attracting people again, and the money will follow…

  6. Prof Willis H A Moore says:

    The Episcopal Church per se, and bishops especially, have been reluctant to review and try to renew the “idea” of great cathedrals. In too many cases, these edifices consume more and more time and energy in the repair, maintenance, and safekeeping, sapping the congregation of energy needed for ministry. There are other models “out there” for keeping great cathedrals as places of prayer, energy, music, gathering, and more: I know of NO diocese which has given serious thought and action towards moving into the 21st Century with eyes wide open and options aplenty.

  7. Steven Long says:

    You need to get used to similar annoucements from other parishes in the coming months and years as the ECUS continues to experience dwindling membership and accompanying lower giving. Leadership needs to ‘wake up’ and not ignor these alarming trends. Maybe this and other closures will cause leadership to recognize that their radical theology is pushing people out of the Church. There’s only so much the average parishoner can stand. The only people left will be a small secular group that can’t afford to fund even the basic expenses of congregational worship.

  8. Harry W Shipps says:

    All “mainline churches” (TEC, UCC, ELCA, UMC and PCUSA) are having these same problems. We must look at the demographics; our birth rate (1.9 per couple) and immigration patterns. Neither support our growth.

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