The Cathedral of St. Philip - Atlanta, GA

Doing Good Things

An article for the Cathedral Times
by Sara Craig-Goodell, Program Coordinator for Communications and Outreach
July 2, 2023

I have a confession to make: I’m not Episcopalian. I think I’m technically an apostate Catholic. When I was younger, I loved church. I would go to service with my mom every Sunday and then Bible studies with my cousins afterwards. During the service, I would snuggle up to mom, she would hold my hand, and I would let the music and the rumbling voice of the preacher surround me. I never really listened that closely, I just enjoyed the peaceful feeling I had there.

That changed when I was about eight. My stepdad gave me the following advice: “question everything.” Looking back, I suspect he was talking about the scientific method and the science project he was helping me with. He probably should have added a caveat or two because shortly after I started questioning everything, my Bible studies teacher asked my mom to find a different class for me. I had become “disruptive,” apparently. I think my secular stepdad was pretty proud of himself. My devout Catholic mother… not so much. 

I kind of gave up on churches after that. I still went with my mom and sat through the sermons, but I had really started listening and questioning what I heard. I didn’t agree or understand everything, but I wasn’t allowed to question it in that parish. I didn’t feel like there was a place in Church for me anymore. 

Years later, the Cathedral Farmers Market changed my mind. After years of working in restaurants with grueling hours and an often cutthroat and competitive environment, I was burnt out. I still loved food, but I didn’t want to work in restaurants anymore. Working for the Cathedral Farmers Market, first as assistant and then as executive director, was right at the intersection of delicious food and community engagement, just what I wanted­—and the Cathedral’s staff were so welcoming and helpful. It felt good to work with a team of people who were all on your side, trying to do good things for the people around them. When I asked questions about Bible passages at our staff meetings, I got thoughtful responses; I wasn’t asked to leave. I learned that it’s okay to ask questions here—you’ll still belong. I went from feeling alienated from the Church, to feeling like I could be welcome here; like I could do good things here, too.

And the Cathedral does do good things. Clergy, staff, and parishioners of the Cathedral donate their time, treasure, and talent to community partners that address homelessness, food insecurity, higher education, prison ministries, and many more worthy endeavors. While those things are important, I think what has an even greater impact, and what wholly changed my mind about Church, is the thousands and thousands of individual connections made here. In my ten years at the Cathedral, including the last 3 working in communications and outreach, I have witnessed extraordinary compassion and pastoral care from our clergy. They go above and beyond to provide emotional and spiritual sanctuary to the community. They do so much more than preach; acting as confidantes, ad hoc social care workers, nurses, life coaches, grief counselors—you name it, they’ve probably done it, and if they can’t help, they’ll find someone who can. It’s not just the clergy either. I’ve heard our lay staff comfort parishioners on their worst days or celebrate with them on their best, equally empathetic in sorrow or joy. Members spend time with each other outside of church, attend parish events together, serve together, create lifelong friendships and bonds. 

We exist in a time of increasing personal isolation, extreme political divisions, global pandemics, and a myriad of other frightening and anxiety-inducing situations. But at the Cathedral, I feel like we’re all in it together. We can all face those challenges together because of the connections we’ve created here.

I think that this church is what Church is supposed to be—being connected to each other, welcoming and caring for others, and working towards the common goal of doing good things.