Cathedral of St. John the Divine prays for peace ahead of the inauguration

Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer watches as a candle is lit.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine prays for peace as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office.

On Tuesday evening at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, a large array of candles were placed outside of the Cathedral’s grand doors. Here the religious institution invited New Yorkers to light a candle wick and pray for peace in the coming days as a new president and vice president settle into their new roles.

In order to ensure social distancing measures were met, members of the church erected tables at the foot of the steep steps, where attendees could inscribe their wish on the glass shell of a candle with a permanent marker before lighting it directly upon sacred grounds. Members of the church hope that some semblance of solidarity can be installed with this act of positive longing for the future.

“Months ago we were aware that this election was going to be very fraught and we envisioned violence and strife. So, we had vigils on the steps of this cathedral to pray for unity. Here we are again, the violence we feared has happened. There could be violence again tomorrow,” said Father Patrick Malloy the Sub-Dean of St. John the Divine referring to the attack on the capitol by a far-right mob.

Father Patrick Malloy stands in front of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Photo by Dean Moses

The world watched in shock as confederate flags and Trump banners were the marching colors of an attempted coup that ended with a bloody siege in the senate. From the unforgettable images of individuals looting podiums from the historic grounds to a man dressed in body armor brandishing zip ties. The mayhem disturbed millions of people, Father Malloy included.

“What happened on January 6th is unimaginable. We expected there to be strife but I couldn’t have imagined people desecrating the capitol building and threatening the lives of our congresspeople, and so it was traumatic for everybody. Today we are inviting people to come here and as a token of their prayer to light a candle, to make a pilgrimage up the steps as a token of their hope,” Father Malloy told amNewYork Metro.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is no stranger to strife and violence itself. After putting services on hold for almost a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the grand religious site faced an active shooter directly following a holiday caroling performance on Dec. 13th. The gunman was shot dead by NYPD officers, but not before the traumatic incident shocked parishioners to their very core. A bullet hole from the gunfight is still visible in the Cathedral’s hallowed framework.

The bullet hole left by the Dec. 13th gunfight. Photo by Dean Moses

It is with this in mind that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attended the event.

“It is to counter the shooting that happened here, to reclaim the space. But to also get rid of Trump. I hope the new administration pays attention to urban America,” Brewer said.

A father and daughter light a candle. Photo by Dean Moses