What’s your favorite memory of your time at the Cathedral?
I have to say that I absolutely love December at the Cathedral. All the people that course through our spaces in the month of December.
Also, I think some of my best memories are of Thanksgiving Eve, when we come together without all the pressure of High Holy Days. We have a service that has a real connection to the rest of the world, in that we take the harvest altar apart because it’s going to be used for food. That seems to embody what I see as the essence of the Cathedral.
Another thing was when we had the service for Nelson Mandela here, after he died. And how the South African community has made a home at the Cathedral. They have their Freedom Day celebration here every year. That, to me, has been an important part of who we are as a Cathedral.
What will you miss the most about being at the Cathedral?
The people. I’ll miss the people and the connections, the connections to Greater Kansas City through the Cathedral. The feeling that I’m in the heart of the city. And I’ll miss staff colleagues. I guess you could boil it all down to relationships.
If you could have people remember one thing about you, what would it be?
That I had a good impact on the Cathedral. And if I’m going to be remembered for something at the Cathedral, I’d like it to be for getting The Way going, the catechumenate. That’s a really transforming time for the people who participate in it. What’s very interesting about the people who have been part of The Way, most of them stick around and are here consistently and they’re strong supporters, both in terms of their time and their resources.
What do you plan to do in the future?
Hmm, well, those doors are opening, but I’m not sure at this point. I do know that I will do some writing. I already have started outlining a book.
What words of wisdom would you offer to the next Dean?
I think that you need to understand two things here at the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the cathedral for The Diocese of West Missouri and it’s a house of prayer for all people, but it’s also a vibrant parish church and it’s important to keep that in balance.
And I would want to say to the next Dean that it’s not like a parish church in the sense that there are a lot more demands on your time here. So it’s important to gather a staff that is capable of taking care of the day to day tasks that are necessary to keep the church running smoothly.
I would also want to say to the next Dean another important thing, too, is to build many different ways in which people can be connected in small groups. So that they have one-on-one relationships with people in the congregation, so that there’s better connections between everyone.
Dean Peter DeVeau formally retires in July 2018. This interview was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Angelus.
Melissa Scheffler is Communications Coordinator at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Even as unfounded fear accompanied anticipation of the year 2000 (recall the hype around Y2K), the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned a work of sacred art in 1998 to mark the dawn of the new millennium. Their desire to create an enduring work of beauty was realized when a team of artists and calligraphers under the direction of Donald Jackson, principal scribe to Elizabeth II of England, copied and illuminated the Saint John’s Bible. It was a lifelong goal for Jackson to complete a fully illuminated manuscript of the Holy Scriptures. This intersection of monastic community foresight and the imagination of a dedicated artist resulted in an exquisite work that will be admired long after our lifetimes.
An anonymous donor has made a gift of the entire seven volume heritage edition of the Saint John’s Bible to Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. This exact replica copy of the original 1,127 vellum pages of the Saint John’s Bible is the first illuminated manuscript of the entire Bible and Apocrypha created since before the Reformation. In a spirit of ecumenism it uses the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible. Unlike our usual Bibles in which the Apocrypha is bound separately, the “inter-testamental” books of the Apocrypha are interspersed within the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) according to Roman Catholic usage.
Since November 2015 the Cathedral participated in A Year with the Saint John’s Bible, when it was entrusted with the care of two strikingly beautiful exact replica volumes: (1) the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles and (2) The Pentateuch, or Torah, comprising the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Funding for this exhibition was made possible through a gift in memory of former Senior Warden, Charles N. “Pete” Seidlitz, Jr. A gift from the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Foundation provided resources for creating a secure and attractive space for display of the Bibles in the former cloakroom outside the Common Room and opposite the Cathedral Bookstore.
This is a work for our times. In commissioning the creation of the Saint John’s Bible the monks of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota specified that its illuminations would reflect the contemporary world. Sprinkled throughout the illuminations contained in the Bible are direct references to the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century. A satellite image of the Ganges Delta is used in a panel illuminating day three of the first Creation Story in Genesis. The double helix of DNA is incorporated in the brightly illuminated genealogy of Jesus that opens the gospel of Matthew. An image of the Twin Towers rendered in gold leaf adds depth to the illuminated page interpreting the breadth of divine forgiveness contained in Luke’s parable of the Prodigal Son. Forms borrowed from other traditions such as Jewish and Koranic art, Middle Eastern and South Asian textiles, and prayer mandalas adorn its pages. This is a work that acknowledges the plurality of our times.
In keeping with long-standing illuminated manuscript tradition, the flora and fauna depicted throughout the Saint John’s Bible are native to Collegeville and the northern Great Plains of North America. For example, the page containing the longer ending of Mark’s gospel depicts a stalk of common milkweed displaying the full life cycle of the endangered Monarch Butterfly.
The Saint John’s Bible is a significant addition to the art of the Cathedral and helps fulfill the Cathedral’s mission as a resource center for the Diocese of West Missouri and the Kansas City community. A group is being convened to develop policies and guidelines for sharing the Bible with other churches and institutions. After the other five volumes are delivered to the Cathedral in February (Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Letters and Revelation) a celebration is planned featuring speakers from St. John’s University, Collegeville to lecture on this masterwork and its creation.
The monks intended that the Bible be shared, used liturgically, and handled. It is designed to allow for both a visual and tactile experience. Viewers can leaf carefully through the pages, provided one has thoroughly washed hands with soap and water to remove oil and grime. As much as possible since November 2015 an open page of the Bible related to the day’s lectionary readings has been displayed at the front of the Cathedral nave during services. The Bibles are used in adult formation. Their images serve well for contemplation in visio divina, an amplification of the Benedictine practice of lectio divina, the intentional and prayerful listening to Scripture. In the Easter season one of the books was loaned to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for use during the Great Vigil of Easter and at Pentecost. An area high school borrowed them for a program in the school’s library.
The beginning of A Year with the Saint John’s Bible at the Cathedral in 2015 was accompanied by great fanfare and ceremony. It was Kirkin o’ the Tartans Sunday when a large number of Scottish Presbyterians were in attendance. It was also the penultimate Sunday of the Church Year when the Collect of the Day used is:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Following the praying of the Collect that day, the Gospels and Pentateuch were carried in procession by two men in kilts, accompanied by bagpipers, drummers, and a flock of children. One of the book bearers’ parents had made a significant donation to the St. John’s monks to help pay for the creation of the Bible. This was our Christian take on the Jewish observance of Simchat Torah, the day that marks the end and beginning of the annual cycle of Torah reading when the sacred scrolls are carried during the synagogue liturgy. It was also a visual reminder that a Bible in the English language was placed in “every church and chapel of the realm” as a first act of the Sixteenth Century Reformation in England.
We at the Cathedral are looking forward to sharing the hand-written and colorfully illuminated pages of the Saint John’s Bible, lively resplendent in gold leaf, with our sister congregations in the diocese. This is a lasting resource that presents a living Word to inform and shape our faith especially as we navigate these changing and unsettled times.
The Very Rev. Peter DeVeau, has served as Dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral since 2012.