Behind the scenes as National Cathedral preps for state funeral

WASHINGTON — A look behind the scenes at the Washington National Cathedral on Monday revealed the intricacies of preparing to host a televised state funeral, in this case for former President George H.W. Bush.

Round-the-clock work began at 1 p.m. Sunday. By midday Monday, part of the preparations included a worker suspended off the ground hanging spotlights on massive columns. Aisles were cluttered with stacked boxes of microphones, metal tripods, TV monitors and coil after coil of wires.

Technicians sat in front of panels tweaking adjustments on keyboards that would shape countless elements of what viewers will see and hear during Wednesday’s service along the aisles, pews and altar, which was labeled as “stage.”

Outside, some workers continued unloading trucks of equipment, while others connected cables nearly as thick as gas pump hoses to production trucks.

The cathedral choir and military musicians will rehearse on Tuesday midday. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The cathedral choir and military musicians will rehearse on Tuesday midday. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Technicians sat in front of panels tweaking adjustments on keyboards that would shape countless elements of what viewers will see and hear during Wednesday's service along the aisles, pews and alter, which was labeled as "stage." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Technicians sat in front of panels tweaking adjustments on keyboards that would shape countless elements of what viewers will see and hear during Wednesday’s service along the aisles, pews and altar, which was labeled as “stage.” (WTOP/Kristi King)

As visitors enter the front door of the cathedral, statues of past Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln anchor each side. (WTOP/Kristi King)
As visitors enter the front door of the cathedral, statues of past Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln anchor each side. (WTOP/Kristi King)

"Their statues — one in bronze and one in limestone — are glorious and let you know right away when you step into the space that you're going to be learning about Christian faith, but also about what we hold dear and treasure in American history," Hollerith said. (WTOP/Kristi King)
“Their statues — one in bronze and one in limestone — are glorious and let you know right away when you step into the space that you’re going to be learning about Christian faith, but also about what we hold dear and treasure in American history,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A multitude of boxes clutter the aisles of the cathedral during the set up of lights and video equipment. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A multitude of boxes clutter the aisles of the cathedral during the set up of lights and video equipment. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Everything at the cathedral has to be ready for the funeral by about noon Tuesday, 24 hours before the event. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Everything at the cathedral has to be ready for the funeral by about noon Tuesday, 24 hours before the event. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Work continued all night in what will ultimately be two-and-a-half days of prep work. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Work continued all night in what will ultimately be two-and-a-half days of prep work. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The only U.S. president buried in the nation's capital is Woodrow Wilson, who is interred at the cathedral with his wife, Edith. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The only U.S. president buried in the nation’s capital is Woodrow Wilson, who is interred at the cathedral with his wife, Edith. (WTOP/Kristi King)

(WTOP/Kristi King)
“We were created to do two things: to be a house of prayer for all people, and to be a great church for national purposes,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 23: The Washington National Cathedral is seen on August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. According to reports the church suffered minor damage to several spires. The epicenter of the 5.8 earthquake was located in near Louisa in central Virginia.  (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
The Washington National Cathedral is seen on Aug. 23, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

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The cathedral choir and military musicians will rehearse on Tuesday midday. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Technicians sat in front of panels tweaking adjustments on keyboards that would shape countless elements of what viewers will see and hear during Wednesday's service along the aisles, pews and alter, which was labeled as "stage." (WTOP/Kristi King)
As visitors enter the front door of the cathedral, statues of past Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln anchor each side. (WTOP/Kristi King)
"Their statues — one in bronze and one in limestone — are glorious and let you know right away when you step into the space that you're going to be learning about Christian faith, but also about what we hold dear and treasure in American history," Hollerith said. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A multitude of boxes clutter the aisles of the cathedral during the set up of lights and video equipment. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Everything at the cathedral has to be ready for the funeral by about noon Tuesday, 24 hours before the event. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Work continued all night in what will ultimately be two-and-a-half days of prep work. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The only U.S. president buried in the nation's capital is Woodrow Wilson, who is interred at the cathedral with his wife, Edith. (WTOP/Kristi King)
(WTOP/Kristi King)
WASHINGTON - AUGUST 23: The Washington National Cathedral is seen on August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. According to reports the church suffered minor damage to several spires. The epicenter of the 5.8 earthquake was located in near Louisa in central Virginia.  (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Amid the clutter and bustle of activity, church leaders talked with members of the media.

“We were created to do two things: to be a house of prayer for all people, and to be a great church for national purposes,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral.

Hollerith noted that the cathedral maintains a “funny balance” in America, where there’s an official separation between church and state.

“We have this wonderful opportunity to be a place where, symbolically, the nation gathers to mourn, or to celebrate, or to mark the passing of significant events. We are honored to play that role,” Hollerith said. 

The only U.S. president buried in the nation’s capital is Woodrow Wilson, who is interred at the cathedral with his wife, Edith. Hollerith said the cathedral was constructed not only to tell the story of the Christian faith, as all cathedrals do, but also to tell some of the story of America.

As visitors enter the front door, statues of past Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln anchor each side of the cathedral.

“Their statues — one in bronze and one in limestone — are glorious and let you know right away when you step into the space that you’re going to be learning about Christian faith, but also about what we hold dear and treasure in American history,” Hollerith said.

The National Cathedral was built by the Episcopal Church, but welcomes everyone, regardless of how or whether they celebrate faith.

“I think one of the important things about the cathedral is that we’re a house of prayer for all people,” said the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, provost of Washington National Cathedral.

Cope said Wednesday’s service will focus on Bush and on something larger than ourselves.

“For people of different faith traditions or of no faith tradition, it’s known by different names. But, as a Christian, I would say that (that larger something is) our earthly death is not the end,” Cope said.



Demonstrators chanting “No justice, no peace!” occupy the intersection of 14th and U streets in D.C. on May 29, 2020.

george floyd protests
A police officer watches a crowd of demonstrators walk by May 29, 2020.

Hundreds gathered in front of the White House to demand action for the death of Floyd. The officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck has been charged with third degree murder.

george floyd protest
Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

george floyd protests
Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, at the corner of 14th and U streets in Washington, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

george floyd protest
Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

george floyd protests
A pair of demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, at the corner of 14th and U streets in Washington, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Uniformed U.S. Secret Service officers detain a demonstrator during a protest about the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Demonstrators walk along Pennsylvania Avenue as they protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Washington.

Demonstrators walk along Pennsylvania Avenue as they protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Washington.

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george floyd protest
george floyd protests
george floyd protest
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