"THE DAWNING OF A NEW DAY"
by Fr. Basil Zebrun
Sunday, May 16, 1999, was a notable day in the life of St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas. It was an occasion for the faithful to observe the 45th anniversary of the first Divine Liturgy celebrated at the parish, and to reflect individually, upon the personages, events, joys and sorrows that make up the four and a half decade history of this particular community.
At the same time, while remembering the past, those in attendance clearly beheld something of the future a mere fifty yards away from the outer doors of the temple. Just around the corner, construction had begun on the new, permanent structure for the Cathedral of the Diocese of the South. A significant day indeed, full of meaningful contrasts: the old meeting the new, memories embracing dreams and high expectations for the years ahead.
His Eminence, away on a pastoral visit, left word to his parishioners by way of epistle, ready by Fr. John Anderson from the ambo following the Liturgy. In his letter the Archbishop pointed to the "veterans" of St. Seraphim’s whom he holds in high regard for their faithfulness and dedication. He also alluded to a new era for the Cathedral, its start marked by the building program already in progress. Indeed the 150+ worshippers that day caught a glimpse of a new stage in the parish’s development: land cleared and being worked to make way for a consecrated temple of God; the present Church packed with both new and longtime members, adults, children, catechumens, inquirers and visitors.
The projected completion date for the new Cathedral is October 31, 1999. The builders are efficient and focused. What has been particularly gratifying to see is the devotion and attention to every detail rendered by the construction supervisor, Lee Roy Peschel. The inevitable problems and opportunities which arise during construction are quickly acted upon thanks to the daily working relationship among the contractor, architect and Church personnel.
The six-month time frame for construction does not take into account landscaping or all that is necessary to adorn the interior. A great deal of planning and many man hours have gone into the project thus far, with more work ahead. But, as one parishioner remarked, "This is where the work really becomes enjoyable, and the fruits very readily seen." Indeed, arrangements are being made to "import" Russian iconographers for completion of the interior, including the iconostasis and appropriate icons on the walls and ceilings.
From the ground up every effort has been made to insure quality construction of a building that will be traditional in style and endure for generations. Great care was taken by contractors and workers to pour the sturdiest of foundations. The concrete slab is supported by thirty-three, fifteen foot concrete piers buried in the ground, resting on bedrock, the largest of these measuring four feet in diameter at the base. A metal roof, which will last indefinitely, complements the strong foundation. The overall design is based upon that of the well known, much photographed, St. Dimitri Church in the Vladimir region of Russia. One large gold cupola will crown the finished 65 foot edifice, a sight to behold in a neighborhood characterized primarily by upscale condominiums and single family dwellings.
Once again, it is difficult to estimate or explain the potential impact of this new Church on the community at St. Seraphim's. For the Diocese, as well, this project has significance as a tangible permanence is now bestowed upon the Diocesan See. The construction of a Cathedral always has implications that reach beyond the boundaries of the local community. In fact, there are those who have commented that this new edifice has importance also for the OCA generally.
Interestingly, this act of construction coincides with the fact that in Dallas/Ft. Worth people of various religious and cultural backgrounds are displaying a profound interest in Orthodoxy, which mirrors a general resurgence in Orthodox studies nationally and across the South. Orthodox Churches in North Texas, for example, have been featured in a positive light, in newspaper editorials, magazine articles, and on TV and radio spots, over the past two years. Additionally, recent immigrants have enhanced the complexion of local Churches representing several jurisdictions. It almost seems providential that at this point in time a highly visible and unique sign of Orthodoxy is being constructed in the heart of Dallas. This conclusion appeared somewhat confirmed by a recent statement of Dallas' Mayor, Ron Kirk. During an interview focusing on proposed improvements to downtown and along the Trinity River, Mayor Kirk expressed a desire for these sectors of the city to become "cultural, intellectual, and spiritual centers." These "centers" happen to border the Oaklawn/Turtle Creek area of town in which St. Seraphim's is located.
This new building promises to be a future Dallas landmark. It has already received compliments from neighborhood building committee representatives. It is expected that the process of completion will draw the attention of the local religious and artistic communities.
For many, especially Archbishop Dmitri, who is also the founding pastor of the Cathedral, the Church project is a fulfillment of a dream, representing a beginning, not an end. This "dream come true" only points the way toward greater plans and goals for the future. It is one large step leading to further development within the Cathedral community and the Diocese of the South.
Some people have asked us to keep The Dawn's readership informed of the Cathedral's progress. Such requests served as impetus for this article. Others have asked if they may contribute towards the described efforts. The answer is a resounding, yes! This is a large endeavor to be sure: approximately $1,200,000.00 total to complete the Church. It is an obligation, though, that the people of St. Seraphim's have taken on and are ready to fulfill. However, if there are any who desire to offer financial support, their participation will be gratefully received and acknowledged. $660,000 represents debt that must, of course, be repaid. Donations may be sent to St. Seraphim Cathedral, P.O. Box 191109, Dallas, Texas, 75219.
Soon it will be time to dedicate and consecrate the new temple. The time and date will be announced. It is hoped that many friends of St. Seraphim's will be able to experience this historic event.
From The Dawn
Publication of the Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America