Thursday, February 24, 2011

The city I love will never be seen by my grandchildren

The title of this post picks up on a remark by Phil Goff, the Leader of the Opposition, summing up what he has seen of destruction in Christchurch. Older buildings including Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches bearing the history of the city will be demolished and buried as landfill. (Can the cathedrals avoid this end? I think it a reasonable presumption to make that Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders will do all in their power to save their cathedrals, but even a 'layperson' (re engineering) such as myself can imagine that beyond external damage to the cathedrals (see link below) must lie massive internal damage to the remainder of these buildings not seen in photographs.)

Christchurch is the city of my birth and about half my upbringing from birth to adulthood. It is an amazing 'new world' city whose history bears the heritage of Europe while offering a modern, efficient place for people to live near to sea, mountains, rivers, and parks. Its climate is challenging, capable of bitter cold and immense heat generated by hot winds beginning in the Australian outback. Its culture has generated some of the great discoveries in knowledge (think Ernest Rutherford) and produced some of the greatest sportspeople New Zealand has been blessed to take onto the world stage, especially in cricket and rugby.

But that city will never be the same again. It was going to be different after 4 September 2010, but many landmarks stood tall, if damaged, after that large quake. Now many of those landmarks will go. We will have no money and little will to rebuild with replicas. Our grandchildren will not see the city my grandparents knew so well.

NZ Herald has two sites with excellent sets of photos. This one has 'before' and 'after' comparisons, including the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and Knox Presbyterian church. This one has fifty photos, some of which include destroyed churches. (Locals may know better than me, but one without specific caption seems to be Durham Street Methodist, badly damaged in September, and now completely flattened).


Tim Harris said...

Hi Peter,

Greetings, thoughts and prayers from further up the isle...

Any news on Theology House? You had noted that it was weakened after the Sept 4 quake. And is the Diocesan Office still located in the multi-storey office building in the CBD, around the corner from the Cathedral? I imagine the state of that building would be unknown at this stage, and require significant interim arrangements for the entire diocesan administrative infra-structure, at least in the near future.

I am especially in prayer for those with responsibilities for leadership, both civic and local, including pastoral leadership in this pervasive environment of stress and anxiety, let alone grief and shock.

Do let us know if you or the Diocese could do with some more 'troops on the ground', or assistance in any other way.

Grace and peace,


Tim Harris said...

PS: Peter, I'm assuming no news is good news to the extent that everyone was able to evacuate the Diocesan office - do you know if that is the case? Any news of how +Victoria has fared, or folk at St John's Latimer Square?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim
TH is fine in that the building it is in seems to be fine.

The Anglican Centre will be closed for a while but I think that is due to the general state of the CBD.

All were evacuated and +VM is well.

I believe that StJohn's Latimer Sq church is now beyond repair.

At this stage prayer is the main thing from afar: unless with an official body like fire brigade etc, to come to help now would be to come to stay in places which might have no water or power, and wherever we are, no flushing toilets!

Brother David said...

Not in any way to lessen your grief as you mourn her historic passing, but many great cities before Christchurch have endured similar fates. In North America, Chicago and San Francisco come to mind. Hiroshima, Nagasaki and many great cities of Europe have also weathered a senseless holocaust at our own hands.

The day shall come where again she will rear her proud head with new buildings and landmarks, better, stronger and wiser built because of the lessons learned from this calamity. Buildings which perhaps your grandkids will proudly observe withstand earthquakes as they are built upon the principals and technology devised to defy a bit of Mother Nature's violent celebrations.

Until then, we stand with you in prayer and where possible with the shared resources of your fellow nations of the earth. The presence of mishap, tragedy or catastrophe is not evidence of the absence of God.

Doug Chaplin said...

It's obviously too early to tell what the fate of the cathedral will be, and apart from making them safe, buildings will not be an immediate priority, even if they symbolise in broken stone what has been lost.

I wonder if there is something to be learnt from the experience of iconic European churches after WWII – to build in such a way as to make what was destroyed or damaged part of what is rebuilt and renewed. There seems to be something quite profound in that.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David and Doug

Good points: there have been significant city rebuilds in the past; and the old can be incorporated into the new.

It will be fascinating to see what happens. We Kiwis are not as skillful in architectural debates as we are in sport!

In any case people are the immediate concern.

laudable Practice said...

Peter, on Tuesday evening (UK time), my parish of Christ Church, Lisburn (Northern Ireland)began its weekly bible study with prayers for your city.

A small thing, I know, but hopefully a reminder of love and hope in the Body of Christ.


Father Ron Smith said...

Hello Peter, and all readers of Peter's blog. My wife Diana and I are living about 2 miles from the City centre of Christchurch - aware of the devastation in the CBD, of the sad loss of life, and the awful tension in the lives of those awaiting news of their loved ones. We pray that God's great love will be experienced at this time of loss, and that the Church can still be a resource of renewal and strength.

I experienced, in my childhood, the devastation of the City of Coventry during W.W.2. and the amazing care and resilience of all who survived. I believe the same resources will be made availble for Cantabrians in the present crisis.

As for the emergence of a new City, we must all believe that good can still come out of the present circumstances - even though at this time the way ahead seems fraught with heartache and trouble.

May the God of ALL people look down with mercy upon God's suffering children - not only in Christchurch, but in all countries around the world who are sharing God's suffering for the world. Through the grace of Jesus
Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
Those prayers are appreciated.
Thank you!

Brother David said...

Well if something can be gleaned from the Mormon's, whose capital city sits in quake country, they have taken a few of their historic buildings which were built in the late 1800s and completely gutted the inside, so that only the outer walls remained and then built brand new modern constructions within those outer walls that are independent of the outer walls and which are self sustaining and built to ultra modern earthquake code.

With modern plumbing and electricity, plus new roofs, the exterior looks to be the same heritage building, but the inside has all of the comforts of the 20th, 21st Century.

Judah said...

I am also Christchurch born and lived there both in childhood and early adulthood. Tuesday night my husband woke me from a nightmare. Something precious and significant was being torn from me, and I was protesting, fighting to hold on to it.

The collapse of the cathedral gutted me. So many places I knew piles of rubble. Shag rock where I played all those long summer holidays Shag stump! My earliest memories of my grandparents ...their house among others fallen from Clifton Hill.

But worse than all, the loss of so many lives, the suffering and misery, grief and bewilderment. I hear the words "God is so cruel!" and hardly know how to answer them. He is not, but without a Christian worldview, knowing the bigger picture, it is quite understandable that non-believers think that is so. Too much anger and hurt and blaming of God to respond with anything more (just niow) than compassion and understanding.

I'm going around distracted, hardly able to think of much else than the devastation of the city I love, the foundation of so many memoriews, the part that was being ton from me in my nightmare. It goes on and on and on... My heart is with Christchurch, and it hurts.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Judah
It is very tough here, so many losing loved ones, and losing homes (which are more than mere houses) ... and really tough for those not living here but whose hearts are here.