Exciting News From The Dean

August 03, 2018

Dear friends in Christ,

We are at an exciting point in the life of St. James Cathedral, and I am writing to update you on significant developments that will enrich and embolden the future of the Cathedral community and its mission.

You may be aware that we have for some time intended to undertake a capital campaign to repair some issues from the past as well as put the cathedral in the right place to grow into the future. I am happy to share with you that the wardens, Cathedral Chapter, and staff are enthusiastic to take the first steps in what will be an inspiring journey together.

Since coming to St. James in September 2015, I have been conscious of three primary tasks that are vital to our future. The exterior of the building is in poor condition. At my installation, the cathedral was shrouded in scaffolding as temporary repairs were undertaken. One of our major tasks is to ensure that our stonework is healthy and that the building has no problems for the foreseeable future.

About half of our organ was removed in 2015 and stored away. Despite Stephen Buzard and Mary Pan making the instrument sound magnificent, the truth is that much of the organ is non-functioning and the playable portion is an unfortunate condition. After much consideration, we plan to build a new organ that will properly support the extraordinary tradition of music-making at St. James from its beginnings.

Notwithstanding its beauty, the current condition of the cathedral hinders 21st-century mission. There are challenges created by the layout of both the worship space and the basement. This is compounded by our failure to effectively utilize all of our spaces, including outdoors. Coming from a country with countless historical and beautiful churches with architectural and practical challenges, I have learned that churches which adapt to mission in the modern age are the churches that grow and flourish. Those of us entrusted with leading St. James Cathedral understand that we must pursue a path that will cultivate our growth and not stifle it.
To that end, the Cathedral Chapter has met with architect Ptolemy Dean, whose work in restoring and revitalizing historic churches is unparalleled. You may remember his Dean’s Forum from January 2016 about his addition of a new elevator tower to Westminster Abbey, which recently opened to popular and critical acclaim. We have invited him to prepare a proposal for us that, I am confident, will liberate the full potential of our beloved home for generations to come.

These three aims (exterior, interior, and organ) will be the heart of a capital campaign, launching in 2019. To achieve this, your representatives, the Cathedral Chapter, have made several important decisions.


Capital Campaign Committee

The Cathedral Chapter has formed a Capital Campaign Committee chaired jointly by Kitty and Dave Beecken, and Bing Chang. They will be supported by Jann Lorch, Stacy Sharpe, John Smagner, Michael Cleavenger, Charlie Lewis, and Steve Bridges. They all bring substantial expertise in fund-raising that will be vital to our endeavors.

Secondly, on the advice of the co-chairs of the Capital Campaign Committee, we have commissioned Nike Whitcomb & Associates to act as campaign consultants. Nike is a committed Episcopalian with an impressive track record of working with churches and not-for-profits in Chicago and across the country. She brings a network of remarkable connections as well as tremendous energy to help us fund our future.

The first task of the campaign process is to explore the feasibility of the work we envision. Over the next six to eight months, every member of St. James will be asked to participate in a personal interview, survey, or focus group. Your input is essential to any projects we undertake. Please say “Yes!” when you are asked to participate.


Organ Planning Committee

The Cathedral Chapter has also appointed an Organ Planning Committee to select an organ builder to create a new instrument for us. Chapter and Capital Campaign Committee member John Smagner has agreed to chair this committee, supported by Bing Chang, Sharon Peterson, and Charles Sundquist from St. James, and Richard Clemmitt, the Director of Music at Christ Church, Winnetka. The Cathedral Chapter has accepted the committee's recommendation to appoint organ consultant Scott Riedel to advise us through this process.

I hope you share my excitement for all the possibilities that lie ahead. These are the very first stages of an intricate process. Please know that there will be abundant opportunities for discussion and conversation in the upcoming months. We will be inviting Ptolemy Dean to revisit Chicago when we embark on broad consultation about the current and future use of our building, and all that this implies.

It is an immense privilege to serve as Dean of this remarkable cathedral community. Please join me in praying that we might respond faithfully to God’s call to serve our sisters and brothers in Christ through the best use of our cherished church building.

I wish you a refreshing remainder of the summer and look forward to journeying onwards with you into Christ’s service in the fall.


Your priest and friend,

The Very Rev. Dominic Barrington,
Dean of the Cathedral