In Your Midst
House of God, Gate of Heaven
Winter 1999

I first attended Mass at St. James Cathedral for two reasons: the music and the size. I wanted to be moved (which I trusted the music to do) but also sought anonymity. I wasn't sure I wanted God to notice my presence, let alone another person. It is a sweet irony that within five months I'd moved from the back pew to the front row, smack in the heart of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). This is the power of St. James Cathedral.

As a liturgy-starved refugee from a Protestant tradition, I was then - and continue to be -moved by what someone irreverently referred to as the 'smells and bells' of Catholicism. Faith is sometimes an unwieldy virtue. I need the signs and symbols to anchor my belief. And no place does it for me as well as this place. So it was a fascinating privilege to preview House of God, Gate of Heaven, a book being published to celebrate the history and heart of St. James Cathedral. This coffee-table style book will be available in the cathedral bookstore early in the new year.

A Preview of the book cover
A Preview of the cover of the new book House of God, Gate of Heaven
St. James is a crossroads in a thriving urban center. Here ancient tradition and the spirit of Vatican II blend beautifully in the structure of the building and the liturgy itself. House of God, Gate of Heaven presents the Cathedral as a holy place where the parish community gathers to praise God, to care for each other, and to reach out in ministries that enrich the parish and serve the poor. It also is a place where people of all faiths gather for prayer and protest in times of crisis or tragedy. This book represents these realities in photographs and prose.

Three noted writers and the architect for the Cathedral's 1994 renovation were invited to contribute essays. David Brewster, a Seattle journalist who founded the Seattle Weekly and who is executive director of Town Hall, a cultural center on First Hill, wrote an essay which places St. James Cathedral in the heart of the city. He describes it as a vital center for Seattle's religious, political and artistic life.

The next essay, "The Labor of Faith," is an intimate account of a conversion to Catholicism, written by Robert Clark, a St. James parishioner and nationally renowned author. Clark was a member of St. James' RCIA program and in his piece he poses questions of himself and his faith, which are deeply moving and inspiring.

Steven Lee, an associate with Bumgardner, a Seattle architectural firm, was the project architect for the Cathedral's 1994 renovation. His essay on the Cathedral's renovation process reveals how St. James finally came into its own. The photographs in this section take the building from the chaos of construction into its present grandeur.

David Buerge, a local historian and author, tells the history of St. James from its beginnings to the present.

House of God, Gate of Heaven is richly designed and edited by Jackie O'Ryan, public affairs director of Catholic Community Services and a Cathedral parishioner. Many of the excellent and sometimes heart-stopping photographs that fill the pages were taken by Carol and Craig Harrold, professional photographers, also wife and husband and parishioners. Steven Lee took many of the other photographs.

The story of the Cathedral told in this book is not merely the story of a building, but the role it plays in the life of the community and in the hearts of individuals. St. James is the place where my family found a long-sought community of faith.

I have belonged to many churches but I have never experienced a faith community like St. James - its true grace is its community of believers: the way we teach, the way we pray, the way we welcome and provide loving service to those in need.

If you have never worshipped in any other place than St. James Cathedral, you may not realize how special it is. In that case, House of God, Gate of Heaven will make it clear.

Lorraine Thomas is a St. James parishioner and has been a member of the infant baptism and RCIA teams.

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