Saturday, March 3, 2012

It is dead. Start grieving.

The decision to deconstruct Christchurch cathedral, announced yesterday, is predictably generating amazing, if not weird, talk. Including our mayor offering informally to take the cathedral off the diocese's hands, letters to the editor of the Press expressing belief that the cathedral can be saved (and look some engineering firm on the other side of the world says they can do the job for peanuts), and a city councillor saying he will chain himself in protest to the cathedral (we would probably allow him but theologically the church has never been keen on supporting suicide). For contrasting sane and sensible talk, read Bosco Peters.

I am really disappointed in our mayor, Bob Parker. That is no way to do business of such a serious nature. I am disappointed in CERA: why aren't they stepping up to the mark and saying that basically this is their call as much as the diocese's? I am disappointed in our paper the Press which is making mischief about this. It is simply irresponsible journalism not to investigate things better: to put a claim in the paper from an engineering firm from far away which says for $20 million dollars it can fix the cathedral is just reprehensible. How about one phone call to a university prof of civil engineering to check whether that is a joke or not?

We lost over 180 people in the earthquake. 180 dead people and many dead buildings. Our cathedral is dead. It is amazing that it took so long to die (we should give thanks for its sturdy fight). But it has no special anti-death strength in the face of the battering it has received. It has no special reason to stay alive when so many other fine buildings have died already. It is dead. We need to start grieving. Not wishing there was a different reality for it. The earthquake is a tragedy. Many people and many buildings are victims of it. Our cathedral, the Roman cathedral and many other churches are sharing in the tragedy. Let's face the tragedy for what it is: a tragedy. It is painful, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing. We have lost an icon, a spiritual home, a place of memories for many people, and a symbol of our founding Anglican past and our present faith and hope. We need to engage with the loss and experience it as loss.

Coming up with strange, weird thinking about how this tragedy could not be what it is, a tragedy, is no way to face the loss of the cathedral.

Let's start grieving. It is the only sensible thing to do.


hogster said...

Re: The Wizard said the cathedral building and land should be put in the control of a public trust. "I think it should be given to the people of Christchurch, then we could raise the money. We can't trust the church to look after that building."

Talk about confusion.

Who is not going to grieve for a great loss to the city. But lets remember the Church is Christ and the church is the people of Christ. Jesus promised that his church would stand and be built no matter what.

To the Wizard I would say "so why should I trust your judgement over what is best for the cathedral or what it stands for"?

And for the record it is a cathedral not just "that building". In the different worldview lies the problem.

Father Ron Smith said...

The Mayor of Christchurch, like the Wizard, is publicly only known for his use of the Cathedral as a venue for civic occasions. I cannot see how Bob Parker could be so mistaken about his own position that he has seriously considered that the City Fathers/Mothers should take over the ownership and disposition of the Anglican land and building in the Square.

As for the Wizard, he is only interested in his own publicity - in his representation of the 'black arts' - to the detriment of true religion. His official opinion - as 'magister' - does not give him an automatic right to pronounce on the future of our Cathedral.

Rev'd Stephen Donald said...

Hi Peter - I admire your honest approach to the loss of the cathedral. I've presided over the inevitable closure, deconsecration and sale of one large brick church building in this parish, and we plan to demolish another concrete church later this year - both buildings are in poor condition and would not survive an earthquake anywhere near as severe as you have experienced.

Acknowledging community grief while remaining resolute in the face of rear-guard actions by those who disagree with the decisions, takes heaps of energy which would be far better spent on the 'real' purpose of the Church, but unfortunately what is required of us at these times. Keep up the good work!

Kia kaha, Stephen

carl jacobs said...

"Prayer has soaked into the walls and earth. You can't walk away from that."

A revealing comment that goes to the heart of the problem. Who prays? Man prays. What then is the apparent importance of this place? Only that men occupied it for a long time. Heritage. Permanence. Identity. Memories. These are the motivations on display in the story. It is a vision of the cathedral as a monument to man. Is that really the proper vision? If that is all it has become, then it has become an idol and it should be torn down.

Man forever builds in the shadow of Ozymandias, knowing full well his efforts are doomed to eventually return to dust. And yet he fights against the knowledge lest he stare in the face his own impermanence. The Church on the other hand is built of living stones that cannot fall. He who worships within must worship is Spirit and Truth. It will never be found in mortar and stone. Despite our best efforts, they must return from whence they came.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments here!

Carl, I appreciate the critique you bring to the cathedral as monument to man. It is that. But there is not an either/or. It is also a monument to God. The living stones of God need housing, in the long term permanent, owned housing is less problematic in a variety of ways than renting off a landlord, etc. The housing of the living stones always says something about God. Our cathedral has been a wonderful monument to God.

In particular it has been an extraordinary opportunity to witness to God in the epicentre of our city.

So the walls and ground are not only soaked in prayer, they reverberate with praise and proclaim our witness.

That's not something to walk away from, if there is no need to do so.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
May God comfort you and the people of Christchurch for the loss of what is a very significant place for all you - a place of worship and community identity. In many ways, this decision shows that you are prioritising people over buildings, rather than the other way around as some commenters here suggest. It's a shame some are criticising the diocese for your considered and thoughtful approach to an emotive issue.