Cathedral Church of the Advent (Birmingham, Alabama)

The Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, is the see church of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. On March 30, 1983, the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Episcopal Church of the Advent.

Episcopal Church of the Advent
Cathedral Church of the Advent.jpg
The church in 2006
Location2017 6th Avenue North (at 20th Street)
Birmingham, Alabama
Coordinates33°31′9″N 86°48′30″W / 33.51917°N 86.80833°W / 33.51917; -86.80833Coordinates: 33°31′9″N 86°48′30″W / 33.51917°N 86.80833°W / 33.51917; -86.80833
ArchitectCharles Wheelock
Architectural styleGothic
NRHP reference No.83002972 [1]
Added to NRHPMarch 30, 1983
For other places of worship named Advent, see Church of the Advent (disambiguation).


The parish church of the Advent was established in 1872, one year after the founding of the city of Birmingham, and was one of the first churches built in the new city. The first building on this site was completed in 1873, but was destroyed by fire on November 24, 1892. The current structure was already underway at that date. It was designed by Wheelock, Joy, and Wheelock, was occupied in the fall of 1893, with the tower and portico undergoing construction until 1895. The parish's second rector John Gardner Murray (in office 1896-1903) would latter become the first elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.[2] The cathedral is known for its prominent location on Twentieth Street North near Linn Park, as well as for the reputation of its music program. It was not until 1982 that the Church of the Advent became a cathedral, when the Diocese of Alabama selected the church as its seat.[3]


The congregation undertook a major project to preserve the Scioto sandstone exterior of the Cathedral between 1999 and 2005. During this same period the Rector's Garden was redesigned to improve drainage and accommodate a columbarium and the belltower was refitted for a carillon of fifteen bells, cast by Fonderie Paccard of Lac d'Annecy, France. In both 2005 and 2012, readers of the Birmingham News named the cathedral choir "Best Church Choir". Today, the Church of the Advent comprises nearly 4,000 members, making it one of the ten largest Episcopal churches in the United States.[3]

For several decades the Advent has been among the more conservative parishes in its diocese. In 2003, the then-dean Paul F. M. Zahl hung a black flag on the cathedral in protest of the election of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.[4][5] In 2016, the Advent hired Zac Hicks, a presbyter in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as its canon for liturgy and worship.[6] The parish has also identified itself as being squarely on the Protestant side of the Anglican via media. In 1998 Dean Zahl published The Protestant Face of Anglicanism and around 2018 the parish shifted from the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer to the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer for portions of the liturgy because they more clearly reflect the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.[7][8] In new covenant statement between the diocese and the cathedral, the Advent’s Protestant, evangelical expression of Anglicanism was recognized and affirmed and the cathedral agreed to return to use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.[9]

The current leader of the cathedral is the Reverend Canon Craig Smalley who is serving as interim dean and rector. From 2013 to May 16, 2021, the dean and rector was the Very Reverend Andrew C. Pearson Jr.[10] The parish vestry announced Pearson's resignation on April 28, 2021, stating that he was resigning as dean due to "the ongoing tension he feels in serving in the Episcopal Church." After leaving the Advent he was released at his request from the Episcopal Church and received into the Anglican Church of North America.[11] He intends to start a new congregation in Birmingham known as Grace Church.[12] In June 2021, the Advent and the diocese affirmed a new covenant recognizing the cathedral’s commitment to a Protestant, evangelical expression of Anglicanism and stating that the it would return to the use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (Rite I) for its principal services.[13] In August 2021, Zack Hicks, the canon for liturgy and worship, also left the cathedral staff.[14]

The cathedral campus is also home to the Advent Episcopal Day School.[15] Carpenter House, the headquarters building for the Diocese of Alabama, is connected to the cathedral building by a cloister.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ Rogers, Rebecca Pegues (1973). The Strength of Her Towers. Birmingham, Alabama: Episcopal Church of the Advent.
  3. ^ a b "Our Parish: History". Cathedral Church of the Advent. Archived from the original on 2013-11-12. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  4. ^ "Advent Cathedral dean steps down due to 'tension' in denomination". al. 2021-05-05. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  5. ^ "BIRMINGHAM: Paul Zahl bids goodbye at Advent | VirtueOnline – The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  6. ^ "Advent Cathedral hires Presbyterian worship leader". al. 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  7. ^ Zahl, Paul F. M. (1998). The Protestant face of Anglicanism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3775-1. OCLC 37712940.
  8. ^ James, Eden C. (2021-05-07). "Cathedral Church of the Advent's Band-Led Service". Magic City Religion. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  9. ^ "Joint Statement of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and the Cathedral Church of the Advent". Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  10. ^ "Our Clergy". Cathedral Church of the Advent. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  11. ^ "Dean of Cathedral of the Advent Steps Down Over Tensions with the TEC". 2021-04-28. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  12. ^ Garrison, Greg (2021-07-04). "'The Advent has changed': Andrew Pearson on why he left Advent Cathedral". Retrieved 2021-07-05.
  13. ^ "Joint Statement of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and the Cathedral Church of the Advent". Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  14. ^ Garrison, Greg (2021-08-07). "Advent Cathedral worship minister leaves". al. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  15. ^ "Advent At A Glance". Advent Episcopal School. Retrieved 2014-02-25.

External linksEdit