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Cathedral's New Dean Envisions A Middle Road

Hundreds Attend Installation

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page C03

The new dean of Washington National Cathedral has a vision for the city, and it is not, he says, the Washington of today, where moderate voices of faith are often overtaken by fundamentalism.

"What is missing in this public discourse is a generous-spirited, open-minded, intellectually probing, compassionate Christian faith," the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III said yesterday as he became the cathedral's ninth dean.

Worshipers fill Washington National Cathedral for the installation of the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III as its ninth dean. (Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

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Creating a space for that faith is not only his challenge, he said, but that of all the faithful.

From across the region and the country, hundreds of followers flocked to the cathedral in Northwest Washington to see Lloyd's installation. In a sanctuary that is often host to the capital's grandest services, this was yet another, a solemn pageant of music and Scripture, another milestone.

Washington National Cathedral is envisioned as a national house of prayer, and that was reflected in the ceremony. There were readings not only from the Bible but from the Koran and from the Torah, by a Muslim chaplain and a rabbi.

Lloyd, 54, succeeds the Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, who stepped down in 2003 and was among those at the service. He comes to Washington from Boston, where he was the rector of another renowned house of worship in the Episcopal Church, the historic Trinity Church. He is taking over a very different place of worship in a very different place, and in his sermon yesterday, he sized up the sweeping mission he claimed for himself.

"The city in which this cathedral stands is divided racially and economically and is the capital of a nation that is polarized politically," Lloyd declared.

Faith, he said, has become far too deep a fault line, employed to divide rather than to unite.

"There is a disturbing absence of thoughtful religious reflection in our public conversation in our country," he told the worshipers. "In print and on television, you can readily hear the views of a narrow and divisive religious fundamentalism."

But that is not all there should be, he said.

"I believe," he said from the flower-draped pulpit, "this cathedral is called to be a major voice of a faith that is firm at the center and soft at the edges . . . a faith that embraces ambiguity, that honors other faiths . . . a faith that insists that Christ's values be embodied in the social order."

For all the pomp that attended his installation -- the bishop presiding, the Anglican dean from Canterbury offering congratulations, the meticulously choreographed service and the big celebration afterward -- what he hoped, he said, was that this was the beginning of a spiritual renewal for him and those who make the cathedral their spiritual home.

"At the heart of all of it," he said, "is the simple embodiment of love that hung on a cross for us and will stop at nothing to heal and reconcile us all, until the world's end."

It was all taken in respectful silence, but to talk to worshipers afterward, it was a message that touched many.

"I thought it was an outstanding sermon, with a wonderful spirit of hope," said Craig Keith, whose wife, Sherley, said she once taught with Lloyd's wife in Virginia.

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the sermon signaled Lloyd's commitment to the capital and his desire to deal with its divisions.

"I'm sure he will be inspiring to many and will reach out across the community and the nation," she said. "I think he will do a great job."

She was hardly the only one expressing such a sentiment.

More than a hundred congregants from Trinity Church trekked from Boston to see Lloyd installed. Even as they were losing him, they were overjoyed, thankful for all he had done for them.

"Sam has been extraordinarily important to me in my faith journey and that of Trinity Church," Dain Perry, 60, said as he made his way to the reception on the north lawn. "He's taken the parish to a whole different place in our relationship with God."

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