My cycling tour last week through God's cathedral in the skies involved excursions through the southern part of the McKenzie country (i.e. inner central South Island) which, since I last visited it, has developed from brown wilderness into a green and pleasant land. That is, through irrigation farmers have grown green grass to feed large herds of dairy cows. Cows ruminate as they chew the cud. Probably they do not think about cathedrals as they do. Here are some cathedral ruminations, in some cases picking up points made in comments here over the weekend, in other cases picking up points made in conversations I experienced over the weekend:
(1) Why restore the current cathedral? (= Design 1) I suggest there are some poor reasons for doing so but there is at least one good reason for doing so. (For present purposes I exclude consideration of cost - projected costs of restoration relative to other designs provide a large number of reasons, each valued at $1, for not proceeding in this direction!).
Poor reasons include the familiarity of the present cathedral, nostalgia for past experiences in the building, homage to Gilbert Scott as a 'great architect'.
The good reason, perhaps the only good reason, IMHO, is that the architectural character of Christchurch flows out from a set of distinctive inner city neo-Gothic stone buildings - the Arts Centre (former university), Christ's College, Museum, Provincial Chambers and Christ Church cathedral. The first three have either been or are in process of being restored. I think the fourth will be restored. The set would be completed by restoring the cathedral. In doing so it could look like we were being nostalgic, clinging to the past and such like. I suggest, however, that to do so could be about the present and the future: to restore would be to continue a feature of what makes Christchurch Christchurch. It would be to take forward into our future the distinctive heritage of our past so that our identity in 2013 and in 2113 is that of a city which understands who it is and where it has come from. An alternative way of expressing this is that the soul of a city is shaped by its architecture (and a soulless city is one with a random collection of utilitarian buildings): to restore the cathedral would be to restore/heal the wounded soul of Christchurch.
This 'good reason' is quite arguable. A new cathedral, for example, would develop the soul of Christchurch in a new direction. Restoring the cathedral, on my line of thought above, depends on the other parts of the set being restored also. The argument is weakened if it turns out that the Provincial Chambers is not going to be restored.
Incidentally, I think there are good reasons not to proceed with restoration (continuing, for present purposes, to exclude costs). The strongest of which (IMHO) is that in 2013 we are a church (a) with a different approach to liturgy, an approach ill-served by the present Scott design; (b) with a liturgical future which, whatever new directions it takes will not go back to a liturgical style best suited by the Scott design.
(2) What of the possibility of a new cathedral? (= Design 3) Here things are interesting as I listen to others, and myself. First, anecdotally, I sense my own general positive reception to the design - love the curves! - is well shared by Christchurch people sympathetic to the first priority of a cathedral to be a place of worship. Secondly, questions spring to my mind. Shared it would seem, not only anecdotally as I listen to others, but also in a thoughtful post by my colleague and friend, Bosco Peters. It might not be helpful if I post every question which springs to mind, and I remind readers that comments are invited on the cathedral design website: feedback here.
That's enough for today. I will keep thinking about my questions!
ADDENDUM: I have just noticed this news re the building of a largish church complex in Christchurch. Majestic Church (should that be New Life Church?) has bought the Cranmer Courts site (well-known to locals here, as on a major one way cross city route, and, until recently, inhabited by a splendid stone building, a former old school converted into flats). They plan to be up and running by 2016 ...