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Nation’s Oldest Episcopal Cathedral Joins Newark Revitalization

Nina Nicholson, Director of Communications

NEWARK, October 21, 2009 – Downtown Newark will soon see a new revitalization project – the renovation of the exterior of Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral, the nation’s oldest Episcopal cathedral building and the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.

Beginning in mid-October and scheduled to be completed before winter, the renovation of the colonial-era building will include power washing the brownstone and brick, repairing the roof and gutters, and repainting all the exterior woodwork, including the cathedral’s iconic white steeple which rises 168 feet over Broad Street, around the corner from NJPAC.

This exterior renovation is just the first phase of an ongoing process of discernment and renovation, as the members of the congregation seek to determine how they might adapt their building to better support their ministries in the community, according to the Dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev. Susan Keller.

“I am committed to the cathedral being a beacon of light and hope to the city and the diocese of Newark,” said Keller, who was installed as Dean of the cathedral in February.  “I can think of no better sign of hope than to go ahead and do this work.”

Cecille Taylor-Simpson, one of the cathedral’s wardens and the chair of its buildings and grounds committee, noted that the cathedral’s members have worked for more than ten years to make this renovation a reality, mainly through many small fund-raising events augmented by donations from friends of the cathedral.

“This has been a work of faith, that we’ve been able to get this far,” said Taylor-Simpson.

The cathedral founded St. Philip’s Academy, which provides a quality education for capable elementary and middle school students in the Newark area regardless of their family's ability to pay.  The Trinity & St. Philip's Youth Arts Conservatory provides intensive arts training for young artists, ages 6-18.  The congregation is also active in helping to support Apostles’ House, which provides social services to homeless and at-risk families in the Newark area.  The cathedral’s other ministries include programs for seniors, the homeless and support of the diocesan prison ministry.

Dean Keller says that launching this initial renovation project has inspired the congregation to think about how they might expand their ministries going forward.

“This is a very fertile time,” she said, “with people thinking about ministries we’ve never done before.”

Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral began in 1746 as Trinity Church, when it received its charter from King George II.  The original building was destroyed during the Revolutionary War, with the current building being completed in 1810.  In 1944 it became Trinity Cathedral.  In 1966, it merged with the congregation of nearby St. Philip’s Church, which had lost its building in a fire two years earlier; the combined congregation later adopted the name Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral.

The Episcopal Diocese of Newark comprises the northern third of New Jersey, and consists of 110 congregations in the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Warren, and Union.  The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith serves as the tenth Bishop of Newark.