Laughing all the way to the National Cathedral

The Very Rev Gary Hall, new Dean of Washington's National Cathedral, started out as a comedy writer for Steve Allen. He got the gig, he says, through his parents. Hall’s father was an actor in Hollywood, his mother a costume designer.

- The Washington Post

And the connection he forged through them with the comedian-turned-Tonight Show host made a lasting impression on Hall’s approach to ministry. 'Steve was a big influence in my life,' Hall says.

Now 64 years old, Hall has white hair, an angular face and thin-rimmed glasses. He looks, well, like a traditional Episcopalian. But he doesn’t talk like one. He is friendly and funny, smart and very, very frank. Boy, is he frank. Don’t be fooled by the white collar he wears.

On a scorching summer day, Hall strides into Le Zinc, a French restaurant close to the cathedral and one of his favorite hangouts, in an Oxford blue shirt with white clerical collar and seersucker jacket. He settles down to lunch and a long conversation that culminates in a description of what he calls “bar theology.”

'Part of being a priest,' says Hall, 'is being a cultural anthropologist.' Pastors, he thinks, should devote time — perhaps once a week — to going around to bars and engaging customers in conversations about religion. This is the thinking behind the Arlington Catholic diocese’s regular 'Theology on Tap' — conversations, often clergy-led, in bars that are among the diocese’s most popular programs.

His easy wit (Hall used to write jokes in high school) combined with a comfort in taking public positions on such controversial contemporary issues as same-sex marriage and gun control were among the reasons Hall was picked for the most senior position at the cathedral. And he sees the evolution in his own thinking as relevant to the future success of the church.

FULL STORY From comedy to National Cathedral

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