As Grace is reopening, each month a member of the Congregation Council highlights a different ministry at the cathedral. This month we write about the Docents.
Several years ago, I was standing inside Grace near the front doors. A mother came in with her son who was probably about 4 or 5 years old. The boy walked in, looked up, and said loudly “WOW!” His mother quickly shushed him and said “This is a church, we have to whisper” and I laughed and said, “No, actually that is how the architects wanted visitors to feel when they entered Grace.”
We are so fortunate to have this beautiful space as our church. I suspect the pandemic may have helped people realize how much being able to come into this building means to all of us, to see the colors streaming through the stained glass, to feel the deep notes of the organ, to hear the carillon ringing as we walk outside, to see each other in the pews.
I’m Joe Garity, one of the docents who give people tours of Grace. Our group of docents is officially called “The Guild of St. Martin of Tours” and that saint is our patron because of where he is from: Tours. (Yes, docent humor is sometimes corny). For over 65 years, the Guild has been welcoming visitors to the cathedral and taking them on guided tours.
Our tours are based on information compiled about Grace by Michael Lampen, Grace Cathedral’s archivist. There is probably no one in the world who knows more about the history of Grace Cathedral than Michael. With his knowledge, we work with the Visitor Experience team at Grace to welcome everyone here.
In a previous blog entry, there were details about recent improvements to the visitor experience at Grace. You may have noticed there are now computer kiosks discreetly placed around the building so visitors can read about some of the artwork and history of Grace in different languages. When you have a chance, stop and read some of them. You may learn things you never knew about Grace.
When I talk with people on tours, they often tell me stories about Grace. Many people share Grace’s memories (“My grandparents were married here” or “Bishop Pike confirmed me in 1965 here” or “The first time I walked a labyrinth was here”). One of the lessons I’ve learned being a docent is that this building means a great deal to many people, not just members of the congregation, but sometimes people who may not be members but whose lives have been touched by Grace.
If you like learning and telling information about Grace, enjoy meeting new people, and like speaking in front of groups, consider joining our team of docents. If you are interested, you can contact me at [email protected] And even if you don’t join us, the next time you are in Grace, take a moment and savor the beauty of this incredible sacred space.