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Dean Jane Shaw is making her mark at Grace Cathedral

Dean Jane Shaw is making her mark at Grace Cathedral

It’s high season for the Episcopal Church in the mainstream media. Bishop Mariann Budde appeared on Face the Nation yesterday morning. The Rev. Luis Leon’s Easter sermon made news because President Obama and his family were in attendance, and Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral spoke up for marriage equality on CNN last night.

These appearances came on the heels of CROSSwalk, the Diocese of Chicago’s initiative to reduce gun violence, which was covered on local television and radio; the Stations of the Cross in Washington, D. C, led by 20 Episcopal bishops as a challenge to the culture of violence, which also received significant coverage; and appearances by Hall and Bishop Gene Robinson outside the United States Supreme Court as it heard marriage equality cases.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, The San Francisco Chronicle published a major profile of The Very Rev. Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral yesterday. Meredith May writes:

As she enters her third year at the helm of one of the largest and most well-known churches in the United States, Shaw, 50, is using her high-profile position to raise Grace’s role in civic life, not only as a provider to those on the margins – the Episcopal church has a jail ministry and homeless shelter program, among other services – but also as an incubator for the arts, technology and environmental sustainability.

“I’ve always been interested in how the church interacts with the world and in cathedrals where seekers feel safe,” Shaw said. “In this place you can ask questions about faith. You aren’t in a church box here.”


Shaw reads a book a week to prepare for [dean’s] Forum interviews, is working on two books of her own, writes her own sermons, and gives talks about “moral imagination” – a term that Shaw coined to express how art can inspire empathy and lead to social change. Shaw and Deavere Smith are collaborating on a book about moral imagination, from the Enlightenment through today’s tech culture.

“Moral imagination is about developing the imagination such that we can really see something from the other person’s point of view and not act on purely selfish grounds,” Shaw said. “I’m interested in what makes a person think about the other, rather than their own personal gain. Then, even more, what makes them act on it?”


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Clint Davis

This is why we have bishops in the succession, because we know that their witness has that extra something that even trickles down to deans and other priests. It’s not rotten clericalism to acknowledge and celebrate this, but the laity has to back it up with warm hospitality and beautiful liturgy every Sunday and holy day, and good words and works every single day, including Vestry meetings! It is high time our Rights or Very Reverends started speaking up and making cases, and staging serious events and the occasional hijinks like our Roman counterparts. It’s making a difference already, but there’s lots more work to be done, and fun to be had, and we of the laity cannot let our witnesses down. If we on the ground don’t follow up, hardly anything gets done. But the Spirit will help us: come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.

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