Friday, November 4, 2011

More questions than answers?

No I am not talking about St Paul's Cathedral, London, centre of the world's cathedralic attention this week. Rather, a bold headline on the front page of the Christchurch Press today says, 'Cera [earthquake authority] gives cathedral ultimatum.' Just hours after Bishop Victoria and Dean Peter told the world in a press conference last Friday that the cathedral would be partially demolished, Cera issued a full demolition order.

So the questions include whether the engineers are advising Dean and Chapter and Cera well or poorly,* why this seems a surprise, given that the partial demolition announcement was a response to Cera concerns, and whether the collective of city council, Cera, government, and diocese are reading the mood of the city well?

Are we a city which will not be at peace till we are told the cathedral will be rebuilt stone by stone to achieve its former iconic glory? Would a bold new design, however much of the old it incorporates, be the will and desire of the people? How would we know what we want without public discussion? Is it a matter for public discussion?

At root, the cathedral is a diocesan property on diocesan land for which repairs, maintenance and insurance have been the responsibility of the church and not the civic authorities (although the civic authorities in recent years have contributed generously to those costs): but who is in charge of its future? Church (legally) or people (effectively)?

The drama has gone up some notches!

*Some of us are experiencing engineering advice in Christchurch as varying from day to day. Until recently I worked in a building deemed 'safe' by engineers. Then, out of the blue, the engineers said the building was unsafe, recalculations on their part telling them the building fell below the line of safety according to the (often changing) building code.


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, can there be any doubt that CERA, at present, has the rule of Law on its side - so that, whatever the Cathedral authorities might have in mind fr the disposition of the Cathedral, they are bound to comply with CERA?

There is more at stake than the Cathedral here; for instance, the needs of public safety, and the need for a coherent City Plan. Should the Church stand in the way, or insist on 'Her Rights'? That is a matter for all of us to decided, But how to do that, is the harder question.

Scott Mayer said...

Hi Peter,

Greetings from not-so-sunny Nelson!

Picking up on your final comment, “At root, the cathedral is a diocesan property on diocesan land for which repairs, maintenance and insurance have been the responsibility of the church and not the civic authorities: but who is in charge of its future? Church (legally) or people (effectively)?”, I think you correct that this is the root issue.

I think that it raises a deeper issue, which may need to be addressed first – what is the place of the (Anglican?) church in a secular, multi-cultural, multi-faith community, such as Christchurch (or anyway else in NZ)? I think that the answer to this determines whether there should be a cathedral – or any other kind of specifically and distinctly christian building – there at all.

I have the impression that the Anglican church in NZ has an unconscious tendency to behave as though it was NZ's 'established' church in the same manner as the CoE, and one way that this tendency manifests itself in public comments to the effect that the rebuilt cathedral should be at the physical 'heart' of Christchurch (this is not a criticism of +Victoria, who I believe has made such comments, only of the assumptions that underpin them), whereas – I say this tentatively as an non-Christchurch resident – it may not be at the spiritual 'heart' of the city at all.

Personally, I would gift the cathedral site to the civic authorities, and seek a different location of the building of a new diocesan cathedral.

(I realise I may be covering ground which has been well pick over in previous posts)

Father Ron Smith said...

Scott Mayer. If the same were to happen to the Cathedral in nelson, would you offer the same advice?

One further thought to mine, expressed earlier (as a citizen of Christchurch and an active retired priest in the Diocese), is that perhaps CERA might give some thought as to the acceptability of the 'Cardboard Cathedral' being erected on the Cathedral site. Would this be a way through for us?
At least, there would be a building on a site owned by the Church, that could be a focus of post-quake life

Scott Mayer said...

Hi Fr. Ron,

The opinion I gave comes from my own, personal reflection on what could be the fate of Nelson Cathedral, given that Nelson has a known earthquake risk. I think there are a number of issues (short-term and long-term) facing Christchurch Cathedral, which Nelson would also face in similar circumstances.

I also need to acknowledge that for me this is a hypothetical consideration, whereas for you, Peter and everyone in Chch it is a lived reality. In truth, I don't what I would think or feel, unless it happens here.

Also, I agree that the Cardboard Cathedral seems to offer a reasonable, innovative way forward in the medium term.

(NB: I'm currently a member of a another Nelson township parish and not the Nelson Cathedral parish. I was a member of the Nelson Cathedral parish from 1989-1997)