A Letter from the Senior Warden

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dear St. Mary’s Parishioners:

I bring you greetings on behalf of our Cathedral community – vestry, clergy, and staff. I hope you are well in this unprecedented time and making it through as best you can. 

We’ve been in transition for over a year, and we have a bit more transitioning to do. As you can see from her letter, Interim Dean Laura F. Gettys is responding to a new call which will take her away from us. As Senior Warden I cannot thank her enough for her leadership, abilities, and love for all of us, over her ten years here. In her year and a half as Interim Dean, she has worked hard to impose order on the running of the Cathedral, instituting procedures and helping us get our finances in order. The Bishop shared these thoughts: “I would like to thank Laura for her faithful, dedicated service to St. Mary’s Cathedral and the diocese. During this period of transition, the diocese will continue to provide support for the clergy and lay leadership of the Cathedral.”

I’ll admit that change isn’t easy for me, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But change we must and change always brings with it new opportunities. Let’s take things a piece at a time: 

Laura’s last day with us will be Sunday, May 31, the day of Pentecost. We will not be in the Cathedral on that Sunday, so that will make saying good-bye hard. We’ll have to do it in person later. Laura won’t be far down the road – we know where to find her!

Canon Pastor Patrick Williams will complete his 3-year term with the Cathedral at the end of August. He may be able to stay a month or two longer, but he is in the process of seeking new calls, and we certainly wish him the best in his search and thank him for his service to our Cathedral.

Deacon Drew Woodruff will continue to be with us, as he has for over forty years. Thank you Drew!

To assist Patrick and Drew, we are very blessed to have the services of the The Rev. Eyleen Farmer. She is retired, and her resume is very impressive. She has served as Associate Rector at Calvary and Grace-St. Luke’s. Many of you know her as the founder of Thistle and Bee. This organization’s mission is to help women who have survived prostitution and trafficking to thrive. It began with a social enterprise based on beekeeping and selling honey, and they provide each woman services based on her needs. 

The vestry has spoken with Bishop Phoebe about these changes and the next phase of our transition. She is going to allow the search for our new dean, which had been unofficially suspended during the COVID-19 event, to go forward. Our hope is to have a new dean in place by Advent.

We will continue to have online services on Sundays, other online events during the week, music from choir members and others every day, and our food ministry weekly. Bishop Phoebe and the clergy of the diocese are formulating plans to reopen our churches. We won’t do it until it can be done safely.

I know this is a lot of information to digest at one time. Please reach out to me, the clergy, the staff, or any vestry member if you have any questions, or if there is anything you would like to discuss. 

Together, we will march forward, as St. Mary’s has for over 160 years, listening to God’s call to us and doing our best to discern and fulfill it. We’ve been there through good times and hard times. We’re still standing, and we are always the better for the experience. It is a pleasure to serve with you.

Faithfully yours,

Scott Morrell

Sr. Warden

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Transition of Interim Dean Laura F. Gettys

An Announcement from the Interim Dean 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dear Cathedral Family,

I greet each of you in this season of Easter joy which finds us living into God’s promise of new life in surprising new ways.  

At our annual meeting in January, our faithful lay leaders and I shared a lot of news with you, and among other things we celebrated the good, hard work done during this transition time around finances. The Cathedral is clearer about where we are financially, and we have a better grasp on the scope of our budget and expenses. Still, as we shared with you then, we know that we do not have the financial ability to support two full time clergy. Though I hoped to remain until the new Dean arrived, I also recognized that I needed to begin discerning my next calling because there could be no overlap of my tenure with the next Dean.  

With prayerfulness and hope, I have accepted the call to become the Associate for Outreach and Engagement at Grace-St. Luke’s Church, Memphis, beginning July 1st. My last day at the Cathedral will be Sunday, May 31st. This means, of course, with Bishop Phoebe’s decision to continue with no in-person worship until June 1st, we will have to be creative through Zoom and other ways to honor our ten years of ministry together. Know that I long for the opportunity to be with you all face to face to express our farewells, and the Bishop has given her blessing that I return in person at a later date when we can all gather together more fully. More details will be coming in the next week about how we will share in our important goodbyes.

Recognizing that my time could not coincide with the new Dean’s, please know that I have been preparing the ground for the Cathedral’s next Dean and will remain a resource for him or her. The Cathedral boasts an extraordinary vestry and a depth of lay leaders who will guide and support you, and they will need your support as will your next Dean. Bishop Phoebe is also committed to shepherding the congregation through these transitional waters. She cares deeply for this place. Additionally, the Reverend Eyleen Farmer will join the St. Mary’s family beginning June 1 on a part-time basis to serve with Canon Patrick Williams.  

We have shared so much in these ten years. I could never have dreamed how much we would grow together as we all learned how to care for one another. I am a better priest because of you. It has been my honor to share in more-than-I-can-count sacramental moments in worship and in walking beside you through your most tender times. I also have loved blowing bubbles with you and brushing angel dust from the ceiling from our shoulders. I’ve been inspired over and over again by your capabilities of radical welcome and love to all God’s children. Together, we have deconstructed many social barriers and helped bring together so many people for a higher cause. And I will always remember how you cared for me and my family through the fire at our house, as well as the daily challenges of raising a family, and made a way for our family to make a home here in the pews. Thank you for the ways you have loved us. 

Serving as your Canon Pastor, your Interim Dean, and as a fellow traveler, I have seen so much strength in our beloved community. I know God has wondrous things in store for all of us, and I’m glad that I’ll be a nearby witness to the Cathedral’s next chapter. May we recognize the Holy Spirit closely with us as we take our separate paths, and may our eyes open wider to the magnificence of Divine Love. 

With my deepest gratitude for the journey,

Laura F. Gettys 

Interim Dean 

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Parish Survey Results from the Dean Search Committee

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Parish Survey last month. We had a great response, and the candor and insights are most helpful as we move forward. Here’s a brief summary of the findings; for more detailed results, click here.

  • We successfully delivered 502 surveys; of those 160 were returned for a return rate of 32 percent. 

  • Overall, 87 percent of parishioners rated their general sentiment about St. Mary’s as either Very or Somewhat Favorable. 95 percent said St. Mary’s fulfills its mission statement Very Well or Somewhat Well. More than 80 percent of respondents said the overall atmosphere is either Very Joyous or Somewhat Joyous.

  • The three most cited strengths of St. Mary’s were the music ministry, the building/physical edifice, and the diversity of the congregation and its community outreach. However, even though the building and the community outreach are seen as strengths, both drew unfavorable responses as well. “Building Maintenance” and “Achieving a Better Balance Between Congregation and Community” were frequently cited as “areas of potential change.”

  • The state of St. Mary’s finances emerged in this survey as the area of greatest current concern. When asked to list what St. Mary’s should change, financial health was one cited most often. 

  • In the survey question asking for input on qualities needed by a new dean, Management/Administrative/Business Skills/Organized ranked among the top five qualities. Other qualities include New Direction, New Ideas, New Energy as well as Friendly and Compassionate. 

For more information or questions, please contact Dr. Jerry Harber, Dean Search Committee Chair

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Inquirers' Class 2020

Do you have questions about the Episcopal Church? Is it time for you or one of your family members to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church? 

Classes begin January 26th, 2020 and run through every Sunday until March 1st with Bishop Phoebe Roaf's Visit for Confirmation/Reaffirmation/Reception on March 1st, 2020.

The class takes place in the Sisters' Chapel.

Click here for more information and class schedule.

For more information, contact Canon Patrick Williams: or Interim Dean Laura F. Gettys:

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A Time of Transition

During this time of transition, in addition to the clergy, members of the Vestry will serve as ministry heads for each of the six areas of ministry. As questions arise, know that there is a Vestry member ready to assist you with your question. 

Service/Outreach: Tom Edwards 901.409.6820

Worship: Steve Kite-Powell 901.603.2933  

Education: Julie Byrd Ashworth 901.413.5961

Evangelism: Posey Hedges 901.335.5854  

Pastoral Care: Sybil Onwuka 901.277.1240  

Stewardship: Pat Kelly 901.262.4534  

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Transition News

Interim Dean

The goodness of transition continues with exciting news: Laura Gettys has been appointed Interim Dean by Bishop Don Johnson and Bishop-Elect Phoebe Roaf. The Cathedral Vestry approved at their February meeting, and Senior Warden Scott Morrell announced last Sunday, February 24th at the 11 am service. Laura will serve in this capacity until a new Dean is selected.

Dean Search Committee

These people were elected by the Vestry, based on their qualifications and demonstrated support of the Cathedral:

Jean Fisher

Jerry Harber

Ernest Kelly

Aimee McMillin

Kelly Morice

Graham Ross

Gillian Steinhauer

Marcos Villa

Robert Watson

Roger Wolcott

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A Statement from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Tennessee Regarding the COVID 19 virus, Coronavirus

Good people of St Mary’s, please read the letter from Bishop Phoebe in regards to the COVID 19 virus, Coronavirus.  St Mary’s wants you to stay informed and healthy. Join us Sunday as we will be sharing some of the precautions St Marys is taking to continue worshipping together while seeking effective practices to remain healthy.


Click here to read the statement

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St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral Seeks New Dean

At St. Mary’s, we are a house of prayer for all people. We see ourselves as a diverse parish, a people who strive to affirm the dignity, sanctity, and equality of every human being; as we kneel side-by-side and break bread together in this sacred Cathedral. We stand ready to support our new Dean in efforts to engage and deepen the relationship with all the people of St. Mary’s—encouraging each of us to find commonalities as a congregation, while appreciating the differences in our individual spiritual journeys.

Our history now spans more than 160 years, and the traditions and legacy forged through those 16-plus decades—good and bad—inform the future for St. Mary’s. We are ever mindful of the historic role St. Mary’s has played in significant Memphis events, including the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878 and, 90 years later, the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are proud of our history, our heritage and our social justice leadership as we look forward to the future with pride and prayerful hope.

Click here to read the full parish profile.

For more information or to enter the search by submitting your resume and personal OTM profile, please contact Canon Sharon Alexander at

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A Word from the Dean: April 2, 2020

Spring has sprung all around us, good people. The birds continue their symphony, the buds and flowers are popping out all around us. Beauty abounds even in a pollen haze. I hope those that can have been able to get outside to enjoy our natural world. We have moved from Winter to Spring. Winter is finally over. And before the COVID-19 virus, we would have been planning services in our cathedral for the upcoming holy days and the Great Triduum leading to Easter. Sadly, this year will look differently as we remain sheltered in place.           

Sacred spaces are important, and our holy space at St. Mary's is special to so many. I name my own grief at not being able to gather together in our sacred space, and I know I'm not alone, because so many of you have shared the same. Not being able to gather collectively in our cathedral during Holy Week and Easter only adds to the magnitude of that grief, but I believe there is an invitation here for us. Where in your own home or living area might you create your own sacred space? All it takes is setting apart a corner or special spot and simply placing a candle, cross, Bible, or other object on a piece of cloth. Scripture encourages us to set aside a space for prayer (Matthew 6:6.) Where might yours be? Click here for some ideas. It occurs to me, as we move into some of our most sacred of days with Holy Week and Easter, we can attend to both our spiritual and emotional health by creating our own sacred space. During this temporary time we are away from St. Mary's, I invite you to create a sacred space and use it during these upcoming days of Holy Week and Easter (and beyond!). If you would like to share, take a picture and send it to us at, and we will share these wonderful sacred spaces as a part of our Thursday e-news. 

I have been giving thanks for the creative ways we have now in place to remain connected spiritually and emotionally. I am especially thankful to the St. Mary's staff who, because we do not have a full-time communications strategist or videographer, are working tirelessly to learn new online capabilities and dream new ways of sharing God's Good News and Way of Love. Thank you to the many parishioners who have so generously offered their interpretations of scripture for our weekly Lenten meditations. I have personally been touched by your illumination and call to see God's invitation around us. Also, thank you for the ways our children's Sunday School teachers are finding ways to connect with our kiddos in such loving ways. One classroom has taken their Sunday lesson "on the road" and made porch deliveries! I have also been so touched by the generosity continuing for our Wednesday food ministry. So many are stepping forward financially and with food items. Amazing! And lastly, I hope you are finding comfort and peace in our newly created, musical meditations now sent daily to your inbox. Christ is indeed present all around us! 

Below is our upcoming schedule for Holy Week. It has been gathered and created with love, creativity, and a whole lotta faith. All of us here at the Cathedral pray that these Holy Week and Easter liturgies will nourish and bless you as we gather to retrace the final days of Jesus' earthly life. For 2,000 years people of faith have been walking this path together. We will continue to do so this year in both familiar and new ways. Trust the Spirit and know that God will be and is with each and every one of us. 



Holy Week and Easter:

Palm Sunday 10 am via Facebook live-streaming            

You will need two items with you for this service:

  • Branches like crepe myrtles, magnolias, or any kind of branch near your home that can be cut (with approval from neighbors!) to be waved around like a palm branch
  • A candle to light

Maundy Thursday 

A resource packet will be sent out Monday, April 6 by email and post for a home gathering service with prayers and scripture and a pre-recorded sermon by Deacon Drew Woodruff. 
You will need these items to gather ahead of time:

  • A bowl of water and a small towel to dry wet feet.

Good Friday   

Come gather for prayers, sermon and to hear the sacred Passion chanted by choir members 

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil   

A resource packet will be sent out Monday, April 6 by email and post for a home gathering service with prayers and scripture. 
You will need to gather ahead of time:

  • A bible, a candle, a bowl of water

 Easter Sunday  10am via Facebook Bishop Phoebe will be our preacher and share a pre-recorded sermon.            

You will need some celebratory items:         

  • Bubbles, champagne, an Easter bonnet and/or bowtie, Easter eggs, the sky is the limit!
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