Update from the Wardens and Interim Dean

Dear St. Mary’s Community, 

We write to inform you of an administrative change that has occurred as a result of a diocesan review by the Bishop and Standing Committee, as required under Diocesan Canon 19.2(d.) The purpose of this required review was to assess the administrative and financial health of each congregation within the diocese. Upon completion of this assessment, all congregations were formally classified as either parishes or mission. It is our understanding that at least half of all congregations within the diocese, including St. Mary’s Cathedral, were classified as missions, while the rest were classified as parishes.   

The status of a church as a parish or mission is determined by its recent history as a sustainable faith community.  The factors that go into such a decision include whether it has made its full contributions to the Diocese, whether it provides an adequate living for its full time Clergy, and whether it is able to pay its current operating expenses from its own resources, without assistance from Diocesan funds. St. Mary’s has not over the past few years made its full share of contributions to the diocese, and its operating expenses have had to be covered in part by taking funds from its endowment, which is not a sustainable course for more than a few more years.   

Among the items on which the vestry will work with the new Intentional Interim Dean will be plotting a course toward sustainability.  One of the goals of this endeavor, other than looking toward long-term sustainability will be the reclassification of the church as a parish.   

Please know that this administrative reclassification does not affect St. Mary’s status as the Cathedral, nor does it impact you as a member. Worship, ministries and activities will not change. The Vestry (or Mission Council) will have the same responsibilities and fiduciary duties. It does mean, however, that the Cathedral would have to seek approval from the Diocesan Finance Committee as well as Bishop and Council, in order to spend non-budgeted funds that would exceed 2.5% of the aggregate annual budget. This is the same procedure that the diocese itself also must adhere to for similar expenditures. 

At the diocesan level, the reclassification does not affect anyone’s eligibility to serve on Diocesan committees. Further, it neither affects the number of delegates that we can send to the Diocesan Convention, nor the assessment of our contribution to the Diocesan budget  

Finally, you should also be aware that the required diocesan review which brought about this administration reclassification happens every three years. Therefore, the reclassification is not meant to be permanent status or punitive one but an opportunity to work with the diocese toward a sustainable future. Again, the vestry is committed to working toward a sustainable future and with your continued faithfulnesssupport and prayers, coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe that a sustainable future is indeed possible.    

As always, if you have any questions, please ask a vestry or clergy member  

In Christ,

 Scott Morrell, Sr. Warden

Julie Byrd Ashworth, Jr. Warden

Patrick J. Williams, Interim Dean

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Remembering the Martyrs of Memphis 2020

The 1878 Yellow fever epidemic decimated Memphis. This year we pay special homage to those care-givers and victims in our pandemic-stricken world.

This week we honor Sister Constance and her companions with daily offerings by special guests who reflect on the question: 

What message or legacy did the sisters leave that resonates with you today?

Monday, September 7th:

Dr. Susan Nelson, member of the Cathedral. Click here to view on YouTube. Click here to view on Facebook (no account needed.)

Tuesday, September, 8th:

Reagan Leavitt, member of the Cathedral. Click here to view on YouTube. Click here to view on Facebook (no account needed.)

Wednesday, September 9th:

Sister Hannah, of the Community of St. Mary, Sewanee, TN. Sr. Hughetta Snowdon, the one surviving Sister from the Yellow Fever Epidemic, moved to Sewanee, TN, after the epidemic, and in 1888, with the help of other Sisters, started what is now the Southern Province of the Sisters of St. Mary in Sewanee, Tennessee. Click here to view on YouTube. Click here to view on Facebook (no account needed.)

Evie Fowler, a student at St. Mary's Episcopal School, who sings and plays guitar on "Day by Day." The hymn, known as SUMNER, was written by Arthur Henry Biggs with lyrics attributed to Richard of Chichester, 13th century. Sr. Constance and other Martyrs were teachers at St. Mary's school then located at the Cathedral. "Day by Day" has special meaning for St. Mary's students, as singing it together is a part of the daily chapel tradition. Click here to view on YouTube. Click here to view on Facebook (no account needed.)

Thursday, September 10th:

Adam Nelson, with music from Linda Henricksen. Click here to view on YouTube. Click here to view on Facebook (no account needed.)

Friday, September 11th:

Bishop Phoebe Roaf  Click here to view on YouTube.


There will be a special pre-recorded service of Letters and Music on Sunday, September 13th, that will include reflections from Margery Wolcott of Constance Abbey and Sophie Droke, a senior at St. Mary's Episcopal School. There will also be a virtual pilgrimage to Elmwood Cemetery, featuring prayers and the Litany of Remembrance, said by the Sisters of the Community of St. Mary in Sewanee. Both videos will be available by 6 am on Sunday on our Worship page.

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Announcement of Intentional Interim Dean & Return to Worship

An Announcement from the Vestry

Monday, September 28, 2020

Dear St. Mary’s Community:

Your vestry is pleased to inform you of two big announcements!

First, we have selected an Intentional Interim Dean to lead our Cathedral for the next 18-24 months, as we do the work required to strengthen our foundation in preparation for the eventual calling of a permanent Dean.  

Earlier this month, Bishop Phoebe contacted the wardens and advised that she and Canon Sharon Alexander had spoken with several possible candidates for intentional interim dean. They identified Jean Vargo as a qualified candidate who is trained in interim ministry and is available to begin in November. We were given her information and invited to speak with her. Other candidates would not become available until sometime around Easter of 2021. 

We convened a subcommittee of the vestry to review her qualifications and to interview her. We were very impressed with her background and experience. We then had her on a Zoom call with the entire vestry, which then voted in favor of extending an offer.  

Jean Vargo is finishing up an assignment in the Knoxville area. She is a Lutheran pastor who was ordained in 1981, served as a US military chaplain in Desert Storm (retired as an Air Force Colonel), and has had seven appointments as an intentional interim. You may know that since 1999, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church have been in full communion with each other, and priests in one denomination have been able to serve in the other’s churches (see below).

Jean has experience with the Episcopal church. When she was in the Air Force, she conducted services in the Episcopal-Lutheran tradition. She realizes that the liturgies are almost identical and understands that in our Cathedral, the Book of Common Prayer and the Episcopal liturgy will be used exclusively. Beyond the denominational difference, however, which we know has been successfully navigated by numerous Lutheran and Episcopal clergy over the years, what was paramount to us was Jean’s extensive experience in ordained ministry and her demonstrated leadership, both in the military and as an intentional interim clergy.  Those skills are related to people, communication, conflict resolution, organization and finance. Each of Rev Vargo’s references spoke very favorably of her in each of these areas. The vestry believes that we have found a skilled leader who will help prepare us for our next Dean. Click here for a welcome video from Rev. Vargo.

As you know, Patrick Williams’ last day with us will be September 30. We cannot thank him enough for his generous and caring service to St. Mary’s for three years. Also, we sincerely thank Rev. Eyleen Farmer, whose last Sunday with us will be Sunday, October 4. For the remainder of October, we will be well covered with services being led by our own Deacon Drew Woodruff, who will also preach, in addition to parishioner Adam Nelson.  

Secondly, we also want you to know that we have scheduled a return to worship at the Cathedral on Sunday, November 22. Our Committee of Return has carefully considered safety procedures we will follow, and our plan was approved by the Bishop. Watch for more information.

Finally, we are humbled and gratified by your financial support for the Cathedral, especially during these difficult times. We are including current financial information in our Sunday bulletins, and our year to date contributions now exceed our pre-COVID budget projections. We pray that you will maintain your support, as our stewardship campaign for 2021 begins soon.

We are excited to begin this new chapter in the long and faithful history of St. Mary’s. Your vestry stands with you and is happy to answer any questions you may have.

Scott Morrell, Sr. Warden

Julie Byrd Ashworth, Jr. Warden

P.S. Regarding the agreement between the Lutheran Church and the Episcopal church, see, particularly paragraph 22. 

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Stewardship Campaign 2021: We Are St. Mary's

As we come to church on Sunday and see you, we know we are all fellow travelers on our Christian journey. You reflect St. Mary’s values. You are the people we want to worship with. You are the reason we keep coming back. And you are the reason we support St. Mary’s with an annual pledge.” – Scott Morrell

The 2021 Stewardship Campaign is underway! Click here for a letter from Senior Warden Scott Morrell and view his video message here.

Click here for your fillable pdf pledge card! The campaign ends November 30, 2020.


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