Thursday, October 4, 2012

In local news

Another chapter of the drama about our cathedral is being written through the second half of this week, as a group opposed to the deconstruction of the cathedral goes to court to argue that the authorities over the cathedral are not legally empowered to make the decision to deconstruct (at least, that's how I read the situation via our Press reports).

In today's Press it is fascinating to read this report of minutes of a cathedral chapter meeting in May 2011:

"Minutes from a May 2011 cathedral chapter meeting read to the court yesterday revealed the building was to be scrapped five months before the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) deemed it unsafe. Minutes recorded revealed:The old cathedral "glorified God in the old tradition" and a new cathedral could glorify God in the New Zealand tradition.
Reluctance to go back to "how things were" and "huge opportunities" existed for a new building.
The cathedral was "more than just a building", it was the "heart and soul of the city".
The old cathedral was "important to many people who actually took nothing from it". A new one should "give more" to them."

I wonder what it means to "glorify God in the New Zealand tradition"? This tradition surely includes glorifying God within old buildings heavily influenced by English and European tradition, even as it expands to incorporate glorifying God in a Maori, Polynesian, globalised 21st century culture (cafe church, fresh expressions, etc) and other ways. But to say that scarcely touches the surface of what makes our tradition "New Zealand" when "New Zealand" includes a world of fourth and fifth generation Kiwis, recent immigrants from many countries, songs from around the world, constant movement of people and their ideas between Australia and NZ, clergy arriving from other countries but predominently from "old" Christian regions such as Britain, Ireland, and North America, theological interaction via conference speakers, the internet and reading books (again, often with keen engagement with ideas coming from "old" Christian regions), habits and customs which are distinctive to us (but sometimes in ways we could critique more than we do: are we over-casual and super-informal?). And so forth ... we might also mention a propensity in our NZ church to utilise the liturgical resources of other churches around the globe. I was once part of a parish which regularly used a "Kenyan eucharistic prayer." But then more and more Africans are migrating to NZ and finding their way into Anglican churches.  Tis a complicated thing, this "New Zealand" tradition! It would be wonderful to learn sometime how our architects are exploring the "New Zealand tradition" alongside their recent tour of North American and European cathedrals.

Rather than talking about 'tradition', I suspect a more accurate way of expressing the situation in respect of glorifying God would be to talk about the design of our older NZ cathedrals constraining worship towards a style we are moving away from (but not letting go of completely) so the opportunity for a new cathedral in the 21st century opens up possibilities for worshipping God free of such constraint. A well designed cathedral today should permit worship according to old and new prayer books, according to ancient cathedral tradition and according to new expressions of liturgy (e.g. liturgical dance, dramatic action, rock band-on-a-stage). The merits of Holy Trinity cathedral in Auckland, for instance, can be much debated in respect of its fusion of 'old' and 'new' (it has to be seen in person to be believed that something so [fill in word to express your reaction] could be commissioned). While reactions to this hybrid vary, there is no doubt that it permits a variety of worship styles to be explored.

In further local news, the guidelines for the very important Structural Review Group  are published on our diocesan website, here.

Here is the key section:

"Vision: To prayerfully consider, review and recommend the future shape of the Diocese of Christchurch giving glory to God and a sure foundation for the future.
Primary Objective & Purpose: the purpose of the Structural Review Group is to provide to the Synod and Standing Committee of the Diocese a draft proposal to re-structure Diocesan Ministry units, in accordance with the Strategic Plan, into a new Diocesan map.
Function: To report its findings and recommendations and provide a draft proposal to the April 2013 Synod by:
1 carrying out a review of work done to date by the Strategic Working Group
2 evaluating work done to date by archdeaconries and ministry units throughout the diocese
3 working with the re-structuring / change management consultant appointed by the Diocese
4 working and consulting with archdeacons and mission and ministry units both clergy and laity
5 consulting with senior staff of the Diocese and Church Property Trustees as required
6 considering all the parameters and scope of the work including finances, faithful stewardship, buildings and property, effective mission, opportunities for outreach in new subdivisions
7 reporting monthly to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Christchurch on progress
8 providing objective, practical, pastorally sensitive and mission centred consideration to work undertaken throughout the Diocese."


Father Ron Smith said...

One of the big ironies in this whole matter is that the Leader of the group that is legally contesting the right of the Anglican Diocese to determine the future of our Cathedral in the City appears to be doing so on the basis of it's historical heritage. This is precisely counter to the forward-looking ministry of the Church - which is the openness to the future for ALL humanity.

Heritage buildings have their place, but do not trump Christian mission - which has to be people-centred - rather then building-focussed. When buildings become dysfunctional, they may point to the need for replacement by the new

Anonymous said...

On this issue Ron I am in complete agreement with you. Well said.