Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Our Downtown Is a Community

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Our Downtown Is a Community

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Morehead

Back in the 1960s, when urban flight was at its height, St. John's Episcopal Cathedral decided not to move to the suburbs.

Instead, Dean Parks and the leadership spearheaded the formation of The Cathedral Foundation (a nonprofit now known as AgingTrue) that owns and operates over 600 affordable apartments for the elderly.

The cathedral also built Cathedral Cares, a nursing home just down the street in the urban core, and The Cathedral School, a top-notch birth to 4-year-old pre-school in the district serving about 100 children of downtown workers.

The Cathedral has extensive experience starting successful nonprofits outside the Cathedral District, too: Episcopal School of Jacksonville, one of the finest schools in the Southeast, a school that combines academic excellence with spiritual and character development and the Cathedral Arts Project, which teaches thousands of after-school children in art, music and dance.

Three years ago, the cathedral adopted the brand "Love at the Core."

These words speak to a church that believes Jesus loved and lived among the poor and that the best place to find Him is to minister in the urban core. We strive for love at the core of our hearts, as all Christians are called to do.

But what does it mean to love the urban core? Recently, we invited the Urban Land Institute to come spend a few days walking the area.


These urban planners and developers, from all over the state told us what our Cathedral District needed most. And the message was clear:

- We need working people to move in among the poor.

- We need diversity of income and socio-economic status.

- We need a neighborhood living in harmony, not siloed but functioning as a balanced community.

You see, what Dean Parks could not foresee is that the cathedral, in its effort to follow Jesus, was creating what today is known as urban blight.

We created an urban desert with the Sulzbacher Center (which parishioners started), Aging True, Volunteers in Medicine (also spearheaded by parishioners) and other nonprofits all huddled together. …

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