Inside the Beltway

Point of View: Hannah Phillips

Washington places from an AU insider's perspective 


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Hannah Phillips at the Washington National Cathedral

People give Washington National Cathedral’s Hannah Phillips, SPA/MS '18, a “puzzled look” when she tells them what she studied at AU: terrorism and homeland security policy. But the Georgia native says there’s a clear connection between her graduate work and the mission of DC’s century-old Episcopal church, where she serves as communications and marketing manager.

“I’ve always been fascinated by why people commit violence—and the common thread is that they lack community,” Phillips says. “The cathedral is a place to build a welcoming and inclusive community where people come together to learn from each other and engage in dialogue.” 

Since the pandemic hit, that community has gone virtual. It’s Phillips’s job to ensure that the more than 400,000 visitors and worshippers who flock each year to the cathedral—majestically perched on the corner of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, just down the street from AU—maintain a spiritual connection until it’s safe to resume a physical one.

“When the world shut down, we didn’t miss a beat,” she says. The cathedral began streaming daily prayers for people around the world, and all of its programming moved online as well, including the new exhibit by German artist Michael Pendry: Les Colombes.

Featuring a winding column of more than 2,000 origami doves in the cathedral’s grand nave—the sacred site of presidential prayer services, state funerals, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last Sunday sermon before his assassination—the installation evokes peace, optimism, and hope for a better 2021. It’s a reminder, Phillips says, that even when we’re apart, “the Holy Spirit is always with us.”