St. Andrew's Cathedral


T he word "cathedral" is derived from the Greek word cathedra, meaning "seat" or "throne." Therefore, a cathedral is the seat, or headquarters, of a bishop. Within the cathedral, one will find the bishop's chair, or cathedra. Often a cathedral is the oldest and/or largest church in the largest city or the political or cultural center of the diocese. Other cathedrals are not the largest or the oldest church, but are given the status of cathedral because they serve as the primary church of a diocese. In the United States, there originally were no cathedrals of the Anglican faith because there were no bishops until after the American Revolution. (All Anglican churches in the former English colonies were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop of London.) Even after the Episcopal Church received its own bishops, the cathedral idea did not immediately catch on. It was not until the Oxford Movement began to have an effect on the Episcopal Church - with its emphasis on traditional Catholic practice and faith - that the idea of American cathedrals for American bishops became popular. However, today not every diocese of the Episcopal Church has a church that is designated as a cathedral. Yet even these dioceses have a particular parish church around which a large part of diocesan life revolves.

Though cathedrals are the headquarters of bishops, they are not administered by them. This responsiblity ordinarily falls to a priest. Priests who are responsible for the care and operation of a cathedral usually are given the title of dean. Technically, a cathedral does not house a local congregation like parish churches do. This is because a true cathedral is intended to be a church for the entire diocese. Most of the cathedrals that you might visit in Europe are classified as such. However, many cathedrals, especially in the United States, do house a local parish congregation. Such cathedrals are often referred to as "pro-cathedrals." The dean of a pro-cathedral serves as the rector of the cathedral parish. Most Episcopal cathedrals are pro-cathedrals even though few of them are actualy referred to as such. St. Andrew's is a pro-cathedral, as it is the home of the largest parish congregation in Mississippi.

Mississippi's first cathedral was St. Peter's in Oxford. It was designated a cathedral because the diocese's second bishop, Hugh Miller Thompson, settled in Oxford after becoming bishop. Bishop Thompson settled in Oxford because, as home to the state's premier public university, it was an intellectual and cultural center of the state. This qualified Oxford to serve as the see city of the diocese. Later, however, Bishop Thompson moved to Jackson, the state's political capital and largest city. Though St. Peter's remained the diocesan cathedral for a few years after Bishop Thompson moved to Jackson, the bishop felt very strongly that the cathedral ought to be located in the city of his residence. Therefore, much of Bishop Thompson's efforts as bishop revolved around the establishment of a cathedral in Jackson. St. Columb's Church was established for this very reason and replaced St. Peter's as the diocese's cathedral. For the remainder of Bishop Thompson's life, St. Columb's bore the designation as Mississippi's Episcopal cathedral. However, this designation did not survive very long after the bishop's death.

It would not be until 1966 that another parish church was given the designation of cathedral. At the time, St. Andrew's was the principal parish of the diocese. It was by far the largest, located in the heart of the state's capital and largest city. Its history was uniquely tied to that of the diocese's. St. Andrew's began its ministry as a mission station in 1839. It was admitted to the diocese in 1843. The parish was visited by many of the missionary bishops that visited Mississippi before the diocese elected its own bishop in 1850. It was the site of the consecration of every bishop of Mississippi except Bishop Thompson. Like many of the other churches of the diocese, St. Andrew's was burned by Union forces during the Civil War but was rebuilt in 1869. The parish was home of the bishop's offices for many years prior to its official designation as a cathedral; however, upon the installation of Bishop John Allin as the diocesan bishop, St. Andrew's was given the official designation and has retained it ever since. By the end of the millennium, the diocese had largely outgrown the facilities located at St. Andrew's. Yet, the diocesan headquarters would not move very far from the church. The Allin Diocesan House is located just around the corner from the cathedral on N. Congress Street. In spite of the fact that the diocesan offices are no longer located on the parish's campus, St. Andrew's continues to fulfill its ceremonial roles as the cathedral and retains the cathedral designation. Visitors to the cathedral will find the bishop's chair built into the wall to the left of the high altar. It is a large canopied chair built of wood, with a needlepoint replica of the diocesan seal in its back.

Click here to visit the website of St. Andrew's Cathedral


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