From the Dean: Starting Up Again

5 November 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today was pivotal in General's return to normal. The staff, faculty, and administration were onsite -- those of us who could be -- and we went back to work. In fact, we never stopped working. So many of our colleagues worked in extraordinary ways since the storm overtook us and the damage was done, like Donna Ashley who walked to GTS from her Upper Westside apartment twice last week to support us residents. Many others, like Tonja Withers, who had an Internet connection, passed information along to our colleagues who had only a phone or text connection. I don't think anyone stopped working. The good thing today was that we were all in the same place at the same time, shoulder-to-shoulder.

In the renovation of the Close, all of the faculty and administrative offices were moved to Seabury Hall. Seabury also includes three classrooms (including our largest one, Seabury Auditorium). Thanks to Anthony Khani, the entire building was warm today. In the renovation, while some of the rooms got self-contained heating/cooling units, some got only cooling units: no heat. Today, Anthony retrofitted those units so they could also supply heating. This gives us three large classrooms that are heated. The Keller Library, to which heat has also been restored, has a number of small conference rooms that are sufficient for some classes. This leaves us with plenty of heated space so we can resume our normal schedule tomorrow, Tuesday, 6 November. Please see the schedule posted on the website (http://gts.edu/attachments/Michaelmas2012CourseSchedule.pdf) for an updated list of room assignments.

We will begin our day tomorrow, 8:00, with Morning Prayer in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. This will return us to our normal liturgical horarium. Breakfast will be available in the Refectory from 7:00–9:00. (The contribution of Ms. Melinda Choi, Chef Justin Poly, and their associates at Aramark to our common life cannot be praised sufficiently, nor can we give ample thanks. In many ways, they have allowed us to stay bonded to one another, and they have energized us during the past week.)

Community_Meeting
Community_Meeting

The community – staff, students, faculty, administration, in a meeting we held today, seemed to be of one mind that we should assemble in the unheated Chapel (rather than in a heated space) for all the liturgies as we reopen. People want to get back to normal. Even though the Chapel is cold and will become even colder as the nor’easter blows in, I discerned that the mind of the group was to return to the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

As I called the group to order today – and it was the largest group of students and their families I have seen since I arrived four years ago – there was a cry to begin with prayer. And so we did. The sense that we are about God’s work is deep. It gives me hope for GTS and for our beloved Episcopal Church.

Some buildings on the Close other than Seabury have heat. Thanks to the work of Mr. Khani, his advisors, and his vendors, heat has been restored to Dehon and Kohne. These buildings are heated with geothermal wells. In residential buildings where there is not yet heat, Anthony and others have provided space heaters. As you can see, my living room is 64 degrees as I type this. That is 30-degrees above the temperature outdoors.

Even if we are not as warm as we normally would be, we are better than if these units had not been secured for us. I am comfortable, and my fellow Chelsea Square residents seem to be equally content. What I have said during the past week, I say again. The goodness and forbearance of GTS people is stunning.

Behind the scenes, President Lowrey and Mr. Khani are working with our partners in the hotel to restore heat to the entire Close. At a leadership conference call today, they filled us in on the work they have done, the progress they have made, and the challenges that face them. The greatest challenge is the oil-fired boiler system, which heats much of the western part of the Close: from the Chapel to 10th Avenue. It was under 16 feet of seawater a few days ago, and the damage to many electrical components, as you can imagine, is devastating. At the same time as we are facing this devastation, so are hundreds of other buildings in New York City compromised. Securing parts and labor to repair our system is a struggle. We have called in influential friends, but we must be realistic. We may not soon have heat in our western buildings.

Hoffman Hall, as you know, is one of those western buildings. It is heated by geothermal wells that have not yet been restored. So are the buildings that together make up the hotel. We have had a record number of reservations for the Paddock Lectures, scheduled for next week, and that event is centered in those 10th Avenue buildings. When alumni and alumnae come back to General for the Lectures, we are all enriched, and old friendships are renewed.

Yet with little possibility of us using the hotel, the Refectory, or any of the rooms in Hoffman Hall, we have decided with reluctance to cancel the event this year. With Donna Ashley, Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, and Father Stuart Kenworthy, president of the AEC, we have decided that we cannot move ahead with the alumni gathering or the Paddock Lectures this year. Our scheduled speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, is a significant voice in the Church’s conversation with modern social media. Ms. Ashley and I have had conversations with Dr. Drescher, a committed Episcopalian. She promises to reschedule with us next year. To not have the Paddock Lectures and not to give our alumni/alumnae an opportunity to gather is to forfeit a great opportunity. We know what a loss it is, but we have no choice.

At this time tomorrow, we at General will be one day into our new normal. If you read the web or the newspapers, you will know that NYC and the surrounding states will not be back to “normal” soon. (I cannot imagine the anguish in New Jersey’s shore communities, or in Staten Island, or in the Rockaways.) We at General, though, will do our best to pray the Offices, celebrate the Eucharist, and keep up our common life and common mission. In short, we will strive (with God’s help) to continue in the apostles’ fellowship and teaching, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. And we will (with God’s help) strive to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Members of our community – students and faculty alike – are reaching out to many who have been crushed by the storm, especially the residents of the Fulton Houses, just south of General on 9th Avenue. Perhaps some of you who are reading this letter would like to help.

The opportunities for being servants for the sake of God-manifest-in-Jesus have multiplied for us, but, most of all, we have now been given the chance to witness that the salvation manifest in the earthly Jesus is manifest still in his Body, the Church. If GTS can witness to the presence of Christ in the world today, the struggle of the past week and the weeks to come will not have been in vain.

Please do all you can to circulate this memo, so our friends and alums will know what is happening on Chelsea Square.

Your brother, Patrick+

The Rev. Canon Patrick Malloy, PhD Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Liturgics The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church 440 West 21st Street New York, New York 10011