Rush Hour is thrilled to spotlight The Very Rev. Joy Rogers, who is the newest addition to the historic St. James Cathedral. From timpani player to critical care nurse, Joy is now the St. James’ provost and can be spotted every week at Rush Hour Concerts, donning her trademark sparkly hat.
Rush Hour: Welcome to Rush Hour Concerts, Rev. Dr. Joy (please let us know how you’d like to be addressed – Rev. Dr. Joy, Rev. Joy, Joy?)! How have you been enjoying Chicago and the St. James community?
Joy: I am happy to have people call me Joy. In my previous parishes, the young people called me Mother Joy, or Mother Rogers. It made sense in a church where the men were called Father. If you are writing an address, I am now The Very Rev. Joy Rogers. I find that fun, since I am often not so reverent. I love being back in Chicago, and I am very much enjoying the people of St. James. They are an incredibly diverse and talented and interesting congregation.
RH: We see you every week at Rush Hour Concerts – thanks so much for being there for us! Hopefully you have been enjoying these concert events?
Joy: I have been enjoying the Rush Hour concerts a lot. The company is fun, the music is extraordinary, the format is so accessible, and any clergy person must love seeing their church fill up with hundreds of folk on a Tuesday afternoon.
RH: So many people have commented on the beauty of St. James, the history behind it, and its peaceful quietness. Why do you think St. James is so ideally suited for a concert series like Rush Hour, which was designed for urban lifestyles and a cross-generational audience?
Joy: As an urban church, St. James has always had a ministry to people with urban lifestyles and the church is always called to minister across the generations. Rush Hour Concerts evolved as a ministry of St. James to the greater community – a way of giving back that emerged out of the talents, the passions, the resources, the vision of the Cathedral and its people. The physical space of the cathedral, its beauty and its peace, carry its own power for holiness, even to people who are not worshippers.
I think that music moves people at a deeply spiritual level. The space enhances that. The Episcopal faith tradition believes that the fruits of artistry and beauty carry us to the presence of God – Rush Hour Concerts are a vehicle that is sufficient in itself. The church does not need to convert or preach or proselytize when it invites people into this kind of experience – it is glad that souls are nourished and human lives enriched by the offerings.
RH: Do you have any favorite pieces, special composers or instruments? Maybe we can pitch some program ideas to Debbie as she plans for next season…
Joy: When I go to the symphony, my favorite musicians to watch are the percussionists. They are so busy and have so many interesting ‘instruments’. I played the tympani in my high school orchestra lots of years ago.
RH: What compelled you to transition from a career as a critical care nurse to study theology?
Joy: I became a nurse because, at the time, the Episcopal Church wasn’t ready for women as priests. Some things are consistent in the vocations – a passion about the well-being of people, and a conviction that healing is always about body, mind and spirit. I learned in the critical care arena about death, and how there are harder things to fear. I learned as a nurse that healing often hurts, and that we need caregivers in every part of our lives who will encourage us, sometimes adamantly, to move forward rather than allow us to stay stuck in our pain. The theological adventure gave me new tools to reflect upon human experience, to struggle with the meaning of life and death, with good and evil, with sin and suffering, and with God. I think I am a better priest because I was a good nurse.
RH: Tell us a bit about your work as trustee of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where you earned your Masters of Divinity in Parish Ministry and a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching.
Joy: I love having the opportunity to serve the seminary that was such a crucial part of my formation as a Christian and as a priest. It keeps me connected with the intellectual aspects of Christianity, with the real challenges of a faith based educational institution in changing times, and with those who are preparing for vocations like mine.
Like clergy and lay leaders in parishes or cathedrals, we worry about money and how to raise it and how to spend it faithfully. We are charged with the tedious details about budgets and buildings. And mostly, trustees are called to give voice to an institution’s vision and mission. My service as a trustee is a lot like the work that members of our Cathedral chapter do.
RH: St. James has a wonderful youth outreach program – Summer in the City at the Cathedral (a summer camp for kids) – as well as a dynamic Sunday education program for kids from pre-school through junior high. What is your vision for reaching out to the younger generations in today’s fast-paced society? Do you think music can enhance the Cathedral’s activism in reaching a more diverse audience group and bridging communities?
Joy: Music is already a major force in attracting people to the Cathedral. A conversation about music and children at the cathedral has begun. The cathedral knows that music can be a powerful vehicle to teach faith to young and old alike. It is looking at what programs for teens might become, within the parish and beyond, embracing the sense of mystery and holiness that are part of its context, and exploring the musical possibilities that will touch this younger generation.