The Very Reverend James A. Kowalski
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
“The spirit of Harlem is the spirit of embrace.”
“Harlem is a community of great spirit and vitality. It is a place where people have transplanted their families and adopted new homes. Harlem has a lot of diversity, and this is a challenge to the community for both the newcomers and the people who have been here for generations. Harlem could be made stronger if there can be more affordable housing, jobs and economic security for everyone.
My favorite place to go in Harlem is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine because it is the gateway to Harlem. It seats 3500 people and is the site of many interfaith services and events, as well as concerts for peace, large weddings and funerals. I believe that churches should be a safe space at the center of the community.
Harlem is vibrant. It has a life energy that is always growing and learning. Harlem’s spirit is one of creativity, inter-cooperation across cultures, and respect. One of the strongest values that holds this community together is the notion that nobody should be left behind. This is a value that sustains Harlem and helped to spread equality to other parts of the world, like South Africa, for instance.
I grew up in Connecticut, and my plan was to become a lawyer. During my first year at law school, I got a fellowship form David Rockefeller to go to seminary. After that, I discovered that I wasn’t as passionate about the law as other students were, and that, in fact, I really wanted to be a priest. So, I went to Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then to Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. I was ordained in 1978.”
The Very Reverend James A. Kowalski has been Dean of the Cathedral for five years and feels at home in a community with such strong roots in the church. In his daily work he honors the fact that “people of faith in this community truly believe that they are children of God,” and he is proud to live and work in a place driven by the creative energy that comes from a higher power.