For a time, the legacy of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller was set in crystal.
His weekly “Hour of Power” from the striking Crystal Cathedral near Disneyland made him a giant of televangelism. The sky was the limit.
But that was then.
Toward the end of his life, everything he'd built spiraled into bankruptcy. That’s when the Rev. Schuller did the unthinkable. He sold his beloved Crystal Cathedral to the Catholic Church, a religion that many in the more fervent corners of Christianity see as a cult.
It was a breathtaking gesture of interfaith thinking.
Not everyone was impressed.
The Catholics, however, (officially, at least) are jubilant.
“Rev. Schuller was a fantastic man with great foresight,” says Pat Holligan, a docent at the new Christ Cathedral grounds. “Now, the future of this place is unlimited.”
In other words, the sky is once again the limit.
I visited the site last week to see how the work was coming along. I found a lot of digging and dust. In all, the church is pouring $72 million into renovations. Honoring a promise to the Rev. Schuller, the new owners are trying to keep as much of the old Schuller look as they can. The statues of Jesus walking on water and teaching little children remain. And the contributors to the original cathedral can still find their names highlighted on the grounds.
It’s the internal workings that are getting a major makeover.
To begin with, the Rev. Schuller had a pop sensibility. One of his mottos was, “Come as you are, in the family car.” He even installed parking spots with built-in speakers so visitors could sit in their cars, listen to the services and watch the goings-on through the thousands of glass panels.
“For him,” says Holligan, “the cathedral was basically a television station. When the Catholic Church took it over, many changes had to be made.”
Catholic worship often has a more solemn feel, so shutters were added to many of the window panes so lighting could be regulated. The altar took center stage at the middle of the church and all the traditional trimmings of a traditional cathedrdal are to be added. A Catholic school was started and the iconic tower was given a facelift.
The whole thing should be ready to be dedicated by summer 2019.2 comments on this story
The unspoken hope, of course, is that given the child abuse scandals in the church and other problems, the new Christ Cathedral will spur newfound fervor and bring a dash of hope and optimism to Southern California Catholicism. Eventually there will be Masses given in seven languages. There are whisperings the cathedral may become the West Coast Vatican, but such rumors are quickly quelled.
Right now, the main goal is to get things up and running.
After that, all involved have faith that the future direction of Christ Cathedral will become crystal clear.