It is fascinating being in Christchurch through these days in respect of who knows what, who does not, and who, surprisingly, does know what I thought they were not meant to know. Take the Anglican Cathedral, for instance. I have been told a figure for the amount of insurance pay out likely, in confidence. To honour that confidence I will not disclose that figure here in print. But I am amazed to fall in conversation with people and find that people outside the circle of folk one might expect to know this figure (e.g. the Chapter, the Standing Committee) also know the figure. What is public is the plan to build a 'cardboard (temporary) cathedral', but prior to the public announcement of this, the plan was very secret. Except I discover quite a few people about town knew about it (and, indeed, the Press revealed the plan two days before the official media launch). A further matter of confidence is the possible location of the cardboard cathedral. Except, again, I am meeting with people and finding out that one possible location is being talked about.
In the midst of these conversations an emergent theme concerns the question in the title, What price is a cathedral? For the cardboard cathedral the figure of $4 million was announced as the likely cost and thus the figure for which funds need to be secured. Some see this as a reasonable amount to spend, others are balking at the figure. Incidentally, if the cardboard cathedral lasts ten years, that sum is $7692 per week, with the prospect that it may be able to be on-sold to some other body to recoup some of the costs. How we secure such funds, thankfully, is not something I have been given responsibility for: I imagine I would be somewhat anxious if I were given that task!
An excellent feature of the cardboard cathedral proposal is that it gets us all recognising that we need some medium-term but temporary means of housing the worship of the cathedral and its choir prior to reconstructing or constructing a permanent cathedral. In turn, that means we have time on our side to conduct a great conversation about the other part of the question, What price is a cathedral?, as it relates to a future permanent structure.
As I see it, this conversation could usefully include the following questions:
(1) Should we Anglicans seek to build a cathedral solely funded by insurance money?
In answering that question, other questions are associated with it: when there are so many other needs around us (locally, globally), on what basis would we seek extra funding? How much more should we spend on a cathedral relative to what we spend when building a new "average" parish church?* What is the importance of a cathedral for a diocese, or to what extent does a diocese wish to 'own' its cathedral, including sharing in the costs of ownership?
(2) What is the relationship of the city of Christchurch to this cathedral (remembering this city has other cathedrals that the city might wish to also be in relationship with)?
In answering that question, as above, there are associated questions: what kind of relationship does the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch want the city to have with the Anglican cathedral? Is a relationship possible in which the city puts up funds and has no say in what the cathedral is used for? (Comment: a significant difference between 1850 when the city was founded and 2020 when, conceivably, a new cathedral might be opened, is that in 1850 there was no pressure for the cathedral envisioned to be a meeting place for all religions, whereas in 2020 there would be pressure for a publicly funded building to be a meeting place for all religions - a consistent theme expressed in a number of letters to the Press).
*I estimate the difference between the monetary value of the cathedral prior to the earthquakes and our least expensive parish church to be a ratio of 200:1, and the difference in respect of an "average" parish church here to be a ratio of 50:1. In the 21st century, what would be an appropriate ratio? 20:1? 10:1?