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Historic Episcopal Cathedral Faces Uninsured Earthquake Damage

Historic Episcopal Cathedral Faces Uninsured Earthquake Damage

The Washington Cathedral, an Episcopal Church, built in 1912, is the second largest cathedral in the United States and sixth largest in the world.  It received severe damage from the 5.9 earthquake that hit August 23, 2011.  Three after shocks of 2.5 followed the quake.  However, these damages are not covered by insurance and many east coast churches finding their insurance will not cover the damages.

[Episcopal News Service] East Coast Episcopal churches great and small spent Aug. 24 assessing damage caused by the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck the day before outside of Richmond, Virginia, and finding that their insurance may not cover needed repairs.

Pictures of the damage are on the Cathedral website.  This is the same cathedral which Presiding Bishop Catherine Schori's formal seating service as the first female presiding bishop took place.  Many presidents attended this church at one time also.  Late President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan's funerals took place here, as well as other presidents.  Thus this church as a vast history with the United States before it sustained substantial damage from the quake.

The historic Washington National Cathedral sustained substantial damage in this quake. Experts are tirelessly working to assess the building damage—both structurally and aesthetically.

Since 1912, the Cathedral has been a national place of worship as well as host to state funerals, presidential memorial services, and served as a spiritual home for our country in times of crisis.

The Dean of the National Cathedral twittered:

"This cathedral was built by Americans all over the nation and its restoration will require the full support of the country," the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, cathedral dean, said via Twitter.

None of the costs associated with the anticipated repairs will be covered by the cathedral's insurance, according to a tweet on the cathedral's Twitter page.

The Cathedral is closed until August 27, but plans for Sunday worship service will be announced August 28, once they are finalized.  The service for the 9/11 commemoration, called "A Call to Compassion," will resume as planned, an announcement stated.  However, many other churches in the area are finding the same insurance issues.

"Regrettably, several churches that have sustained damage have learned that their insurance does not cover earthquake damage — and this includes churches covered by the Church Insurance Company," Johnston said in his letter. "Earthquake insurance is an additional insurance one must purchase and, given the fact that earthquakes have been such a rarity in Virginia, many churches may not have such insurance."

The diocese staff is exploring other possible resources for repairs since they did not purchase earthquake insurance.  The video below discusses and shows the damage done to the cathedral by the quake.

Joe Alonso, head stonemason at the National Cathedral, said in a video released late Aug. 23 that it was fortunate that most of the debris that fell off the building fell onto its roofs rather than onto surrounding sidewalks and roads.

He noted that the western pinnacle of the south transept "rotated counterclockwise several inches" during the quake and said he observed evidence of similar rotation on some of the cathedral's many other pinnacles. The central tower sustained most of the damage, he said.

"It's mind-boggling what occurred up there," he said in the video.

One pinnacle rotated and fell onto the steps of the cathedral.  These pinnacles weigh about 3000 pounds, most of which fell onto the roof.

"One good thing about the roof of the central tower is that it is a massive poured-concrete roof with massive poured-concrete beams, so structurally it was able to take that hit of that massive masonry, of that 3,000-pound chunk of pinnacle striking it," he said in the video.

Supposedly the repairs will cost millions of dollars and the cathedral expects support from the country.  It was built by the nation, so they expect the nation to help repair the damages.  Interesting concept, but it seems like the Episcopal Church would start encroaching on the First Amendment, with that one, but then again, the Anglican Church's history involves being a Church State, of which this cathedral is mixed with U.S. presidential history, as well as a historical symbol.

A press conference (on site 22 minute video), given on the August 24, gave more details of the damages.  The website of the National Cathedral had this to say concerning the damages:

“We at the National Cathedral are deeply grateful for the expressions of support that have poured in from across the country via phone calls, emails, and other media,” said Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III. “We are extraordinarily fortunate to have so many devoted friends and supporters, and will surely be turning to them for assistance in the work of repairing the damages sustained today. We give thanks to God that no one was injured and that preliminary reports indicate that despite the damage, the building will soon be accessible.”

Below is a view of Reagan's funeral at the cathedral:

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
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