July 7, 2011
So, I was driving southbound on Wisconsin Avenue in northwest Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning, fresh from an exciting baseball game at Nationals Park the night before (more on that soon!), and my plan was to take pictures around the White House and other government buildings downtown. But then my eyes focused on the grand towers of National Cathedral looming in the distance, and my plans completely changed. I had been meaning to pay a visit there for many, many years, and with the bright and sunny skies, it was a perfect opportunity to photograph that architectural splendor. The White House will have to wait!
I began by taking a leisurely stroll through the Bishop's Garden, on the south side. It is well-tended and includes many roses, tiger lilies, etc. Its primary use is as a tranquil place for prayer and meditation, and it is is also excellent bird habitat. I didn't seen much there other than some Song Sparrows and Catbirds, however. Later I went inside, took a self-guided tour, and watched a video that describes the history of the cathedral's construction (it took from 1907 until 1990!) and its purposes. The primary instigator of the whole project was an Episcopal Bishop named Henry Yates Satterlee, who died in 1908, one year after laying the cornerstone. Although the Cathedral is run by the Episcopal Church and the services are in the Anglican tradition, the mission is of a somewhat more ecumenical nature. It is intended to serve as a house of worship for the nation as a whole, without regard to denomination or faith. Visitors are reminded that the Episcopal Church has a distinctive emphasis on reconciliation, between God and Man, and among all members of the human race.
I decided to attend the daily Holy Eucharist service, which is held at noon. Being in such an awe-inspiring place certainly magnifies the religious experience. Afterwards, I took the elevator and ascended to the observation deck located in the western towers. It provides spectacular views of Washington, but with the summer haze, the visibility becomes slightly obscured more than three miles away. (I could make out the Capitol and RFK Stadium, but not Nationals Park.) Directly below are St. Alban's School, the Episcopal Church House, where the Diocese of Washington's offices are located, and the Herb Cottage, next to the Bishop's Garden. Finally, I went to the shop in the lower level and bought myself an "Episcopal Handbook," as well as a couple gifts. I hope to pay another visit to the Cathedral before too long. My only complaint is with the high cost of the underground parking garage: 16 dollars??? I hope some of that money goes for upkeep on the cathedral itself.
To get acquainted with our nation's foremost house of worship, see nationalcathedral.org. People of all faiths are welcome.
That photo, and many others from Washington and from Virginia, can be seen on the new Summer 2011 photo gallery page. Probably the most dramatic photo of all is the Black Bear which Jacqueline and I saw crossing Skyline Drive on June 8. With any luck, I will add a comment feature to that page and other photo gallery pages later this summer. Facebook has a convenient interface for enabling comments on photos that are uploaded, but I tend to refrain from posting too many photos there. Or, I may finally break down and start using Flickr or Picasa...