Better Know a Parishioner: Katherine Karr-Cornejo

Your name and what you do in Spokane?

Katherine Karr-Cornejo. I’m a professor in the World Languages and Cultures department at Whitworth (the reason we moved to Spokane in the first place) and my time is divided between that work, my home life, and church stuff. My work at Whitworth involves teaching, service, and research in my academic discipline (Latin American literature); at home, I treasure my spouse, my cat, and my books; and at church, I love worship and trying to figure out what God is calling us to be together as a community.

I love reading! Generally I prefer fiction, and within that, speculative fiction, but I’m willing to try all sorts of things. I’m working on being OK with not finishing books that don’t speak to me in the moment. It’s a challenge. I also enjoy doing yoga by myself, I love cooking, and playing some video games.

What is your history at St. John’s Cathedral, and the Episcopal Church at large?

I was raised in the Episcopal church – my mother’s religious roots are Baptist and Congregationalist, and my father’s are Episcopalian. I loved singing in choir as a child, which was an important Christian formation experience. I was baptized when I was in high school, and confirmed in college – which was a wonderful opportunity to deepen my understanding of the Christian tradition and my own place within it. I love singing in church, and at St John’s I love joining my voice with others every week praising God.

I came to St John’s in 2012 when we moved to Spokane from the East Coast, after having done internet research on the different Episcopal churches in the area. Many individuals, both at St John’s and in the Diocese, have been instrumental in inviting me into ministry in ways that I would have never thought possible. I’ve been stretched in my notion of myself, as God through our community has challenged me to offer my gifts in the service of the Gospel – or at least, I am trying.

There are many things that I love about the Episcopal church. I love that we welcome questions and doubts. I love that we take liturgy seriously and do it to the best of our ability. I love that we embrace mystery. I love that we embrace intellectual inquiry – we are all, in our way, theologians! I love that we take the Bible seriously. I love that we do our best to seek and serve Christ in all persons. I love the musical traditions of Anglicanism, and its global scope. I love that doctrine is not a bat to shut down conversation. I love that we hear the Word of God all over the place. I love the language of inclusion that has become ever more naturalized as I’ve grown older. I love that I can see myself – and people different from me – in church leadership. I love that I have never had to question whether I am a beloved child of God.

What ministries at St. John’s are you most passionate about?

Christian Formation! We are all continually being shaped by our experiences of God and the world, and my experience of God in Christ stirs me to respond by wanting to know more and help others to know more. I have always loved learning things, and I’ve always loved sharing what I learned with others. A natural progression from that is teaching – which, unintentionally, has become a bit of a vocation for me. God calls us into relationship, and part of that relationship is learning more about God’s self, the Scriptures, our history and tradition, and frameworks for understanding the world in which we live today. I am very excited that our congregation as a body has expressed a desire for greater Christian formation opportunities, and I look forward to what the future holds for our growth in Christ.

I understand the desire for knowledge of God to be a natural response to our created nature, and to the multitude of gifts with which God blesses us. How can we not want to know more? One of the treasures of our tradition is that we are invited to deepen our understanding while at the same time embracing uncertainty and ambiguity. The church is the one place in my life where ambiguity and certainty can coincide. I know in my bones, and have known my entire life, of the reality of the Risen Christ. What happens in the Eucharist? For me, it’s a mystery. And I find that ambiguity deeply satisfying.

What is one thing you’d like to know more about at St. John’s?

What are we doing to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I know what my own personal commitments are, but I am sure that collectively we are doing much more!


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