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This report is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

Letter from New York J.D. McClatchy
The Cathedral of St John the Divine at Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, the largest Gothic-style church in the world, might seem the stuff for an updated William Golding parable. Begun in 1886, it is still unfinished, though daily beneath its scaffolding masons are raising its right spire, which will eventually be the only part of the building visible above the sea of blighted urban life and high-rise flats that laps it. And by the time that spire is completed, the faith whose aspirations it represents may have further receded; certainly the force of the church's denomination - the Protestant Episcopal, whose numbers dwindle annually - will have.

Or if not Golding, then Swift. In an effort to be 'relevant' to both the church's liberal doctrines and the cathedral's inner city predicaments, the Dean of St John the Divine, the Very Rev. James Morton, has sought to make it 'the first medieval church of the postmodern age - a sacred space where art and ideas, work and play, passion and compassion can recover their spiritual roots.' To that end, he has invited Sufi dancers and high-wire aerialists to perform; there are jazz concerts and animal parades in the sanctuary; there was once a memorial for John Belushi, and there are now side chapels dedicated to the Holocaust and AIDS victims, along with an Earth Shrine and a Motherhood Window. 'Christa', the notorious crucifix with a female Christ, has long since been removed, but on the high altar are Shinto ...


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