Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A House of Prayer for All People: A History of Washington National Cathedral

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A House of Prayer for All People: A History of Washington National Cathedral

Article excerpt

A House of Prayer for All People: A History of Washington National Cathedral. By Frederick Quinn. (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2014, Pp. xii, 211. $28.00.)

In introducing this new book on the Washington National Cathedral, Frederick Quinn explains that rather than write a "traditional institutional history," he has sought instead "to look over the shoulders of the dead and bring a few of them briefly back to life in the three-dimensional settings in which they lived and worked" (iv-v). The result is a series of biographical sketches of those people for whom creating the cathedral proved at once a challenge and inspiration over the course of the twentieth century. An obvious advantage to this approach is that it enables Quinn to pay tribute to those choirmasters, stone carvers, lay ministers, and others whose contributions might otherwise be overlooked in a more conventional church history. On the other hand, it also means that aside from a loose chronology, there is no obvious narrative are or declared set of themes to organize the story. As such, it is only indirectly one begins to discern what are Quinn's priorities in offering this account.

Unsurprisingly, the study opens with an overview of the life and ministry of Henry Yates Satterlee, who became the first bishop of the Diocese of Washington shortly after its inception in 1895. A product of the New York Episcopal establishment, he counted among his close associates Henry Codman Potter and William Reed Huntington, Satterlee possessed both the social position and personal determination to turn the idea of a national cathedral into reality. And while Quinn concedes that not all Satterlee's attitudes are palatable by contemporary standards, he insists that he "should be looked at through the prism of his times, not that of a later century" (45). This is an important statement. First, it is an early indication that one of Quinn's undeclared concerns in the book is to locate various deans and bishops on the spectrum of social progressivism, particularly regarding matters of race and gender. …

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