A new program of pastoral counseling, to be based at Washington Cathedral, will be made possible through the generosity of a sister-Episcopal church, Christ Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis cathedral has promised a three-year grant of $30,000 annually to underwrite a program of counseling, training of volunteers and referral service. Cooperating in the program with the Washington cathedral will be St. Alban's Episcopal Church next door and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Funding comes from the income from a bequest -- said to be approximately $11 million -- left to the Indianapolis cathedral by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, Eli Lilly. Lilly, an active Episcopalian, was the founder of the philanthropic foundation that bears his name.

The Washington Cathedral, currently operating on a drastically reduced budget in order to reduce a building debt, has no full-time staff person currently available to handle counseling assignments.

Despite its generally affluent Northwest locale, many persons come to the cathedral seeking such help."You'd just be amazed at the number of people who come to the cathedral for all kinds of help," said Canon Loyd Casson, who spends half-time on cathedral affairs and half-time on the diocesan staff of Bishop John T. Walker.

"Some people show up here who are just plain hungry, or out in the cold, or need shoes, and we don't have money to give anybody," he continued. "Other people come who are depressed or need counseling or consolation or just need to talk, or they're on drugs or alcohol."

Casson pointed out that the cathedral requires that couples who wish to be married in one of the institutior's exquisite chapels must undergo pastoral counseling before the wedding cermony. Similar counseling and religious instruction is required for parents and sponsors of children baptized at the cathedral.

Unlike parish churches, the Washington Cathedral has no formal members, and lacks the lay organizations and structures of most parish churches. Nevertheless, it serves for many as a religious focal point of the city, or even of the nation, a role that Walker, as titular head of the cathedral, has encouraged.

A committee representing the three institutions sponsoring the new counseling service is currently searching for a priest-director.