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|1710: St James
Cathedral, Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo: Joe Mabel
James Cathedral, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Roman Catholic, Archdiocese
The cathedral was begun in 1905 and was dedicated in 1907.
It is in the 14th century Italian Renaissance style, and is
recognizable from downtown by its large twin towers. The great
bronze west doors are the work of the German artist Ulrich
Henn, whose only other commission in the United States is
the bronze gates of the Washington National Cathedral. A major
remodeling took place in 1994, which brought the altar to
the center of the cathedral and added a skylight. Nave seating
faces the altar from both directions. Beneath the altar are
enshrined the remains of St Frances Cabrini, founder of the
Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
They run a wide array of ministries and have a real sense
of mission for their outreach to those in need in the neighborhood
and the city.
The cathedral is located in the First Hill district, so named
because as one travels east from downtown, this is the first
hill one encounters. The area is primarily residential, but
is also home to Seattle University and several hospitals (due
to which it is sometimes called Pill Hill). O'Dea High School
is just across the street from the cathedral, along with a
number of other buildings that are part of the diocese.
The Revd Michael G. Ryan, pastor.
The date & time:
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 10.00am.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
It started out mostly full, but after the first ten minutes,
as latecomers came in, the pews filled to bulging at the seams.
Did anyone welcome you
An usher at the door gave Mrs Emergent and myself a bulletin
as we entered but did not say anything. He was talking to
two gentlemen in suits, one wearing a CIA-like headset, which
made them look like bouncers.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was all wood with no cushion but was fairly comfortable.
There was ample legroom.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The lighting was dim, and there was a buzz as people chatted
softly prior to the start of the service. (No one in my section
seemed to know one another, though.) About five minutes before
the start, some soft organ music could be heard.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Please take a moment to silence all cell phones at this time."
The first words of the actual service were: "In the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
A printed bulletin was all most people seemed to use, although
there was a book called Worship: A Hymnal & Service Book
for Roman Catholics in the pews.
What musical instruments
Organ, which projected well in the space.
Did anything distract
Babies were crying and fussing through most of the first reading
and the parents didn't seem to want to take them out. Despite
the cell phone announcement, a phone went off during the homily.
The people we shared a pew with brought the kneeler down too
quickly and banged my shins.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was very choreographed and stiff-upper-lip, but
with a warmth to it. There were two choirs, one all male and
one mixed, at each end of the cathedral, and a legion of almost
20 acolytes, all with assigned spots and well-planned duties.
At one point there was a laying on of hands ceremony for baptismal
candidates. The candidates circled the altar. Someone stood
behind each of them and placed his or her hand on their
shoulder. Then the priest went around and laid hands on each
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
7 Father Ryan's tone was
warm and his words were well paced, but I'd say his sermon
was more at the academic end of the spectrum.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Faith is more pilgrimage than possession. God's ways differ
from our ways.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The only hymn sung by the congregation was at the close, but
it was sung with feeling. The hundreds of voices really brought
out God's presence for me. I also really liked the laying
on of hands service; it was a very beautiful ceremony and
a real life representation of the process of being brought
into the community of believers.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The constant shuffling of the congregation with the number
of late arrivals. Also, the bulletin was not well written
– it did not include many of the prayers, nor did it give
references to page numbers in the service book. People who
hadn't been to church for a while or who were not quite up
on all their prayers might find it confusing. As for me, it
really made me self-conscious about my worship. I should think
it would be an easy thing to make it more inclusive.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
The cathedral was just too big to even be noticed looking
lost. I stood around for a bit but no one approached me, so
I proceeded to coffee hour which had been announced before
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Coffee was served in a large gymnasium, where cafeteria tables
had been set out. The coffee was good, served in glass cups.
There were also some delicious fresh muffins. No one talked
to us – everyone seemed to chat just with their friends.
This is expected, though, as the congregation was just too
big for us to think we'd be noticed.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 I felt like it was a bit too anonymous for me. I
wouldn't be noticed in 25 years if this were my regular church.
The service was beautiful, though, and the priest seemed very
nice. The laying on of hands really gave a sense that there
was very much a community of believers supporting those wishing
to be baptized.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, I really felt God's presence with the two choirs and
the laying on of hands.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The laying on of hands ceremony.
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