History

Committed to Works of Mission and Charity

Blueprint of original Cathedral Design

Blueprint of original Cathedral Design

Before a Cathedral could be built for the Diocese of Maryland in the city of Baltimore, support – both philosophical and monetary – had to be raised. Bishop William Paret, who was bishop from 1885-1911, remembered his initial response to the question of building a Cathedral: “I had been asked whether I wanted a Cathedral. I said that I did, if I could have it after my own ideas. I did not want the five millions proposed for New York and for Washington. I would be content with one third of that sum. I should want it placed not in the rich or aristocratic part of the city, for the enjoyment of the wealthy, but among the poor. One half of the money should be used for buildings, and one half as an endowment for the support of the work. The seats must always be free; no pew rents or pledges, but voluntary offerings at every service, which should be used for missions and for charity. The ushers should be instructed to give the best seats to the plainer people, and to put those in gay clothing further off. This idea of a Cathedral did not meet the popular wish.”

Many of Bishop Paret’s ideas resonate with 21st century parishioners of the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  His idea of using money received at free-will offerings “for missions and for charity” are consonate with the Cathedral’s commitment to outreach ministries within the city of Baltimore – building homes for Habitat for Humanity, supporting ERICA’s work resettling refugees, partnering with inner-city schools, helping to supply a food pantry in the Church of the Guardian Angel, and supporting the House of Ruth and the Women’s Housing Coalition.

Historic photo of Cathedral entrance

Historic photo of Cathedral entrance

The Cathedral has been blessed with clergy who have stayed for many years, taking time to grow and support their commitments to ministry. The Rev. Harold Noel Arrowsmith was canon at what was known as the Pro-Cathedral for 35 years – from 1916-1951. Canon Arrowsmith was attune to national world events and issues of world peace, having served as a chaplain in France during World War I. The topics listed for sermons preached at afternoon services at the Cathedral for 1937 included “Social conditions and our young people,” “Recent developments in Europe,” “the Church and the Negro,” and “Prospects for peace.” Guest preachers at the morning service included a missionary to Alaska. College ministry also was important to Canon Arrowsmith. The Cathedral hosted college conferences and the youth ministry blossomed in the Young People’s Fellowship that met on Sunday evenings and discussed “psychology, missions, the negro problem, and various religious topics”. Children regularly participated in the festivals of the church and an active Sunday School was emphasized.

The Rev. John Peabody came to the Cathedral in 1952 and stayed until 1984. He stressed commitment to ecumenical work, college work, the world mission of the Church, working towards world peace and refugee resettlement. Early in his ministry at the Cathedral, he challenged Chapter members to make a courageous commitment to the mission of the church at home and abroad by setting the lofty goal of committing 50 percent of its revenue for mission. Under his leadership, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1955 following the elimination of all debt, and he was named the first Dean. The Cathedral House was built in 1967 to house offices, the Cathedral kindergarten and Sunday School rooms.

The Rev. Van H. Gardner was called as the Cathedral’s second Dean in 1987, and promptly set to work revitalizing a congregation in a sad state of depression. Immediate attention was given to understanding the Baptismal Covenant by creating small foyer groups, organizing an early Christmas Eve service friendly to children, establishing the Cathedral Re-Entry Program, and inaugurating the annual Chapter retreat. To provide the Cathedral with a more open and welcoming entry, Dean Gardner proposed that the wall in front of the building be removed and that a new stairway be built. All of this occurred within his first year. In his 21 years as Dean, the vibrant, exciting community committed to outreach and spiritual growth emerged, setting the stage for a new century of progress.

A New Century of Action — Celebrating 100 years of Worship at the Cathedral

Aerial view of property

Aerial view of property

As the Cathedral of the Incarnation celebrates one hundred years of worship at the corner of University Parkway and Charles Street, it continues to serve as a beacon of hope in a needy world. The Cathedral encourages us, its members, to be a community and to build up the body of Christ, so that we can advance Bishop Paret’s initial vision of a people committed to works of mission and charity.