Writing in yesterday's Press (page C5, no i-link yet), Martin van Beynen, who frequently delights in parading his atheistic secularism, makes an excellent case for Christians coming up with a new way of gathering together in an edifice in order to worship God. His column is titled, “Save space, just one church should cover it.”
“Rebuilding the churches would be a failure of imagination. Imagine the square without the Cathedral. It could be a wonderful clear space with exciting things happening right around its edge. The ruins could serve as a memorial. ... All I am suggesting is the churches combine to give their buck more bang and to create a facility which is both a sensational piece of architecture and as well as something relevant and useful in our secular age. ... I just don’t like to see money wasted and if the churches decide to commit their dwindling resources to rebuilding edifices which serve no use other than to cement past differences and fill up air space, I can’t see the point.”Would rebuilding our churches of differing denominations "cement past differences"? It is hard to see how such rebuilding would not do so!
Is it worth taking this unique opportunity in the life of one city in the post-Christian Western world to do things differently?
It is not as though the case for a new ecumenicity is actually based on Martin van Beynen's atheistic secularist critique of Christianity. It is based, we may care to recall, on the fundamentals of Christian theology: there is only one God, that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit Three Persons in One Being, one gospel, one faith, one baptism, one body of Christ. It is also based on one understanding of liturgy: that we worship the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other worship which is true and genuine Christian worship, and neither Father, Son nor Spirit are divided into Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed and Lutheran.
Of course there are a hundred difficulties (or more) to overcoming our present divisions. History, style, habit, diversity in theology and liturgy, local and regional commitments, you name it, there is a reason not far away to bring up for why we cannot be united, why if we were it would be difficult, indeed likely that we would just divide again and so forth.
But are these reasons good reasons? Standing before the judgement throne of God will our answer sound horribly pathetic when the Father asks us why as a Christian of Christchurch we failed to use the opportunity presented to us to cooperate with the Son in answering his prayer ut unim sint (that they may be one)? Will we be embarrassed and speechless as to why we did not challenge the various denominations spending upwards of $100 - 200 million dollars to ensure that we each had a great church or cathedral to call our own when some smart timetabling and mutual determination could ensure that one large church would service the needs of us all (i.e. to have a large worship space for occasional regional gatherings, to have a spacious sacred space for sacred acts such as ordinations, etc)?
There is only one God and only one gospel. Do we believe that? Are we willing to act on that?
I don't think this is the last word on this opportunity. I am genuinely interested in your responses, including those which tell me I am naive, wrong, barking up the wrong tree or just barking!
Link to a post by Bosco Peters on Liturgy, pointed out below in Comments by Stephen Donald re church buildings