A Church for the United States: The National Cathedral

A Church for the United States: The National Cathedral
Edith Wilson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


   Intended for national purposes, such as public prayer, thanksgiving, funeral orations, etc., and assigned to the special use of no particular Sect or denomination, but equally open to all, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is the burial site for Woodrow Wilson, the only U.S. President to be buried there.


Students participating in this activity will learn about the history of the National Cathedral and consider the advantages and disadvantages of having a church to "serve the nation."

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print materials about the National Cathedral.


1.  Divide students into several groups, each of which is assigned to study one of the following topics:

  • the meaning of "Cathedral"
  • the timeline of construction of the National Cathedral (83 years)
  • some events held in the National Cathedral over the past eight decades
  • famous persons buried in the Cathedral
  • a short description of the Episcopal denomination of Christianity
  • the architecture (Gothic) of the Cathedral

2.  Ask student groups to syntesize their research into a report to the class.

3.  After each group has shared its work, engage the whole class in a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of having a "national" church, including addressing at least the two following questions:

  • Should a "national" church be nondenominational?
  • Should there be more than one "national" churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.?

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by studying the building of other major churches, synagogues, and mosques in the United States.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.