Cathedral Church of the Americas
What’s cool, anyway? And what’s cool got to do with religion and spirituality? Cool, to me, means unexpectedly beautiful. Often, people-wise, it’s related to a kind of friendly tolerance. Cool can be tough, uncompromising. It’s also got to have some aspect of unusual, and if it’s a thing, competently done. Go ahead and define cool for yourself. I know what I mean when I use the term; you probably have a variation on it.
At any rate, by any definition, the Easter Sunday dawn service at the Cathedral Church of the Americas was very cool. I’ve got to tell you, though, I understand extremely little about this group, the International Community of Christ. I spoke a little after the service to Chancellor Sean Savoy, but trying to figure out the basic tenets of a belief system in a five-minute conversation is a fool’s errand. Essentially, this group believes Jesus Christ was a member of a monastic group, the Essenes. Christ’s time on Earth is called the First Advent. The Second Advent occurred in recent history, when Jesus Christ returned—more than symbolically, but not made manifest—through the Sun of Righteousness. The sun is both a symbol and a source of power and healing. Part of what the group seeks to teach a student is how to use ancient and esoteric sun knowledge.
The church’s property is about 25 miles north of Reno, a few miles off Lemmon Valley Drive on Matterhorn Boulevard. This sanctuary is near a peak on the ridge. (There are more than two dozen other open air shrines on the property.) Its presence is announced with a 90-foot-tall concrete spire, which has three faces each topped by a modified Syrian cross. Down the path is a large concrete open-air structure, the church. It faces east, and when we arrived a few minutes after 6 a.m., there were about 40 people facing the ridge over which the sun would rise. Unfortunately, we arrived only moments before the service started.
We stood on the platform facing east. There’s the trickle of a spring down the center of the floor, with a small flame burning near its source. Immediately behind us was a very long—maybe 40 feet—altar with priests in robes on the other side. To the right were the musicians—primarily bells, keyboard and a beautiful wooden harp. There were red banners and carpets. The main priest wore sky blue robes, most of the congregants wore white woven stoles with a blue wheat design. The beautiful panorama of Panther Valley is pretty hard to top as a sanctuary. Evidence of other worship areas were visible on surrounding peaks and in the valley. The wind was just a little chilly. While there is a service every Sunday, the public isn’t necessarily encouraged to attend every week—that happens more on the church’s high holidays. The group has a community communion service on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. at 643 Ralston St. As point of interest, since the group goes by a solar calendar instead of a lunar calendar, the mainstream Easter doesn’t necessarily coincide with theirs, which is April 17.
It’s too bad there’s not more space to describe the simple but beautiful 40-minute service. Waiting for the sun to peek over the ridge to the east, while perfectly orchestrated hand-rung bells, bowl gongs, chimes, harp and keyboard played, and the priests talked about truth and justice and light, was awe inspiring.
There are times when I wish this column didn’t require me to flit week to week from church to church because I think this group has some interesting things to say and a creative and beautiful way of expressing them. They certainly deserve a second glance from people who temper their Christianity with a large dose of nature.