In 2021, Christ Church Cathedral embarked on a profound journey of self-reflection, asking What is God calling Christ Church Cathedral to be and to do? This 10-month process led to the 2022-25 Strategic Plan that was presented during Dean Gray Lesesne’s annual address. Within this plan, there are five pillars, or areas of focus, that will undergird our mission and vision and help to focus and discipline us in our work. These are the areas we’ll be saying “yes” to in the coming three years. You can read more about each pillar in the Strategic Plan handout.
Convener & Connector
Pillar 1 is that we will be a Convener and Connector for our city and diocese. We will take the lead on gathering our downtown neighbors, businesses, and nonprofit for important conversations, especially conversations that focus on racial justice and serving our neighbors who are in the margins. We will be more proactive in offering trainings, gatherings, and opportunities for the people of our Diocese to learn and serve and advocate for our neighbors in need, using our unique location near the State House to put our faith in action when needed. We will serve as a bridge to connect the faith communities of downtown Indianapolis, both Episcopal and ecumencial. We will proactively reach out and build better relationships with diocesan congregations and leaders and make amends for times in the past when we as a Cathedral could have done better. And, we will create more opportunities for diocesan youth to come and use their Cathedral as a launching pad for their passions around outreach and social justice.
Pillar 2 is intrinsically related to Pillar 1; as a better convener and connector, we will be a place of Radical Hospitality and welcome for our city and our diocese. Nonprofits and community groups told us they would love to use our space, especially our lawn, more frequently. In order to be a true place of welcome and hospitality, we first will need to build stronger relationships among ourselves…so that we can then in turn welcome others. As COVID begins to be a memory in the rear-view mirror (we hope!), we look forward to more opportunities this spring and summer for us to socialize, be with each other, and enjoy each other’s company. This will enable us to both offer more outward-facing public liturgies for our neighbors such as blessing stations at the Night Out Against Crime, Ashes to Go on Ash Wednesday, and Dia de Los Muertos altars. We’ll more creatively use our buildings and grounds to make stronger connections with the Millenials who are moving to downtown Indianapolis in droves, and with the diverse Latino and African-American populations who live in nearby neighborhoods. The feedback we received about our inclusive additions to the Nativity Scene last Christmas was entirely positive and very encouraging, and we’ll present more offerings to our community like this. We’ll also focus on refreshing the experience our guests have when they walk into our doors for the first time. And, because food is such an important part of the Christ Church Cathedral experience of hospitality, we plan to form connections with minority and women-owned businesses who could benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship of having a downtown kitchen available to them every day and who could help us serve delicious meals to our guests and members.
Deep Beauty of God
Pillar 3 is at the heart of our Cathedral life together, and that is the Deep Beauty of God we experience in worship that nurtures and fuels everything else that we do together. Because music holds such a central role in the way we experience God’s beauty and holiness, it holds several areas of focus within this pillar. We will reinvent our chorister program into a more targeted, vibrant, everyday, after-school program that seeks to build relationships with students in our neighborhood to offer music, activities, homework help, and food. While we of course will always welcome every young person from any part of Indianapolis who comes to be a part of our choir, we will especially focus on building connections with schools nearby to the Cathedral during the next three years. We will continue to reflect and integrate a diversity of singers, composers and cultures into our regular worship. And we will enhance our concert series, focusing on building local partnerships with nearby universities, nursing homes, and community groups to provide stronger audience attendance and engagement. We also know that the Deep Beauty of God is not just limited to music, and so we will be seeking ways to forge stronger partnerships with local arts organizations, particularly artists of color, to regularly feature local art in the Cathedral building and on our lawn, and to offer occasional pop-up experiential worship services in coordination with the local arts community, . (As an occasional thespian, I would love to plan a pop-up worship service with the IRT or Phoenix Theater!) Finally, because experiencing the Deep Beauty of God in our worship is so essential to our spiritual lives, our plan calls us to offer opportunities to help you deepen and develop your understanding of our liturgical practices, so that what we do inside of here truly feeds all of us to go out and do the work of Christ outside in the world.
Spirituality in Community
Pillar 4 is that we will deepen our spiritual life together as a community and in the community. We’ve heard from you and from our neighbors that we all want to have more opportunities to learn about our faith, the Bible, spiritual practices, and living our lives as faithful people, but not necessarily in the church building. We’ll experiment with more public opportunities for spiritual formation and conversation at places like a pub on Mass Ave or a meeting in the common space at the Artistry apartments downtown. Imagine a Bible study at the library in Irvington, a bilingual prayer and study group meeting at Los Patios in Speedway, or a Lenten study series at the Pancake House on 86th Street. Rather than just offering random classes, we intend to develop and implement a comprehensive adult formation program that deepens our faith, knowledge of the Bible, Anglican identity and practices, and that connects us with each other so that whether you’re new to the Christian faith or Christ Church Cathedral, or have been here your whole life, there is a spiritual offering formation for you that challenges you to grow. And, we intend to entirely refresh our children and youth formation programs, keeping in mind that some of the formation may happen during weekdays with our chorister program.
Living Our Faith in Action
Pillar 5 is the most crucial pillar of our vision and mission, and that is putting our faith into practical action that follows Jesus’ invitation “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Based on the needs we’ve heard from our downtown neighbors, conversations with potential nonprofit partners, and your feedback, we have faithfully decided to narrow our outreach efforts for the next three years to three key areas: ministry with people experiencing homelessness, advocating for fair immigration practices and helping people with immigration needs, and working toward interrupting and ending systemic racism. Our Outreach Team will be developing strong partnerships with local nonprofit groups in these focus areas to offer all of us hands-on ministry opportunities, and to identify where we can direct our covenant grants to make a transformative difference in the neighborhoods around us. We will enhance our Sunday Community Breakfast Ministry by inviting community partners and nonprofits to offer our guests social services and also opportunities to experience art and beauty and conversation along with their breakfast. We will ask our Cathedral Foundation to explore investing a portion of our endowment in missional-related investments that align with our strategic missional priorities. We will create stronger opportunities for our youth to activate their passions and be leaders in outreach. And we will develop our stewardship ministry to invite the people of the Cathedral to generously invest in our ministry as an act of discipleship and as a spiritual discipline.
This is an ambitious plan, for sure. But at this unprecedented time in our world and state and city, where our common civic life is so badly strained, where divisions and discrimination are rampant, where religion seems to be losing ground, and where it would be easy for us to turn inward, Jesus is pointing us outward. He is calling not to shrink back, but rather to go to the widow and the orphan and the leper, he is inviting us to connect with people who are not the usual religious suspects, he is challenging us to see our neighbors and our neighborhood with a fresh set of eyes….and to do all this with the mindset of setting the captives free, of liberating the oppressed, of bringing Good News to the people who need to hear it most, with our words and deeds.