Quake-damaged cathedral faces millions in repairs

August 24, 2011

The iconic Washington National Cathedral, already struggling with
financial problems, faces millions of dollars in repair costs from the
damage inflicted by an August 23 earthquake. And nothing is covered by
insurance, according to a church official.

Clergy and a team of
architects and engineers spent the day after the 5.8-magnitude quake
that centered in Virginia assessing the condition of the huge cathedral.
They found significant damage, including fallen carved angels on the
church's roof, cracks in flying buttresses and missing finials from the
pinnacles of the central tower.

"We run a very tight budget here
at the cathedral, and we have had our financial challenges that we've
worked through very well," said the dean of the cathedral, Samuel Lloyd,
who recently announced that he was ending his six years there to take a
post in Boston in September. "But there is nothing in our budget that
would allow us to step up and do this," he said.

Joe Alonso, the
cathedral's chief stonemason, said it will take years to complete the
repairs. "It's going to be millions, no doubt about it. Millions," he
said. "As large as this structure is, it's all handmade."

Hit hard
by the recession, the Epis­copal cathedral in recent years has
weathered several rounds of staff layoffs and been forced to cut
programming. The charge now, Lloyd said, is to go back to those who
contributed to the construction of the cathedral, which began in 1907
and was completed in 1990.

"It was built by people across the
country who believe having this space for the nation in the heart of the
nation's capital is a hugely important enterprise," said Lloyd. A new
feature on the cathedral's website encourages donations.

Officially,
the cathedral is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of
Washington, but it bills itself as a "house of prayer for all people."
It is often the scene for postinaugural services and funerals of U.S.
presidents and other major government figures.

The earthquake and
the subsequent damage "has not been a jarring thing for our faith,"
Lloyd said. "What it has done is challenge us to claim our faith, to go
to work to make this place be as grand, as beautiful and powerful as
it's always been."  —RNS