Saturday, April 6, 2013

Travesty, lightweight and gauche

The Christchurch Press has been slammed today by a little known Anglican cleric for running a frontpage article on the just released design alternatives for the new ChristChurch cathedral which he who blogs at ADU describes as a "travesty, lightweight and gauche."

"It is a travesty," ADU writes, "because the designs being proposed deserve serious engagement through considered public debate, including with local architects. Instead the Press has sought comments from overseas architects, taken their words and made a headline, burying the well-considered comments of local architects at the end of the article."

Further, ADU notes that it is "lightweight to line up a series of English architectural critics, culturally prone to worship the past, and wheel out their comments endorsing the most expensive option, restoration. A true heavyweight article would have lined up a series of wealthy donors willing to back the critics with their chequebooks. Any old critic can talk up an expensive proposal which they will not be contributing a dollar (or pound or euro) to."

Finally, it is simply "gauche," admonishes ADU, "to throw words such as 'slate', 'slam', 'rubbish', 'vulgar', and 'bizarre' into an article as though this constitutes rational debate of carefully made proposals by a reputable architectural firm. The gutter level of the language used by the Press is highlighted by the careful and considered language used by local architects, that is, by actual residents of Christchurch who will live with whatever design of cathedral is built."

Indeed the whole article reeks of colonialist adventurism. How dare local Kiwi architects seek to foot it on a world stage. Let's consult our British architectural masters to put these colonials in their place. Yes, the Christchurch Press is the voice of 21st century imperialism!

Still, close inspection shows that the journalist concerned is Charlie Gates, well-known foe of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. ADU congratulates Charlie on having skills such as making long-distance phone calls to London.


malfalloon said...

Hi Peter,

I agree with your point about the bias of the Press reporter. But it is also an interesting collection of comments.

As regard the second option of a modern reconstruction, I would agree with Long that it would be a "travesty" (not that I like that word), in that it is not one thing or the other.

The main argument for a full restoration seems to be based on what Christchurch is perceived to need or want: "enduring meaning", "continuity", "sense of history", "treasured its past", etc.

I think they are mistaken to simply listen to the loudest voices from within ChCh (or their own preferences) and then conclude that they speak for the whole. Besides the cathedral in the end must serve the church and not simply please "the city" (whoever they are?).

In the end, my biggest problem with a straight restoration is that as a building, the neo-gothic vision of church worship no longer narratives the gospel in a way that makes sense today. I'm thinking particularly of its reliance on notions of the great chain of being and the hierarchal nature of the church and its ministry.

Today we are more captured by notions of community and gathering. The contemporary church has always been constrained by past architecture. Hence the need for Nave "altars" and such-like as work arounds.

We should only build a restored cathedral if we, as a diocese, are convinced that we should return to the use of its high "altar".

Cathedral's should be built as a gift for the future, not as a veneration of the past. I am more interested in considering whether the contemporary design will provide an adequate functional space that gives freedom and inspiration to a gospel people.

All buildings contain a message from their builders. So the question is, what is the message of the new design? And is it consistent with a faithful contemporary proclamation of the gospel?


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Malcolm.
You have put your finger on the precise issue at stake: will the cathedral, old/revised/new, tell the gospel story?

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, there's one thing coming out of all of this conversation about cathedral architecture that the former congregation of St. John's, Latimer Square, will have to take into consideration. How does their 'liturgical functioning' fit into the new but temporary cathedral building on their former site, that they will eventually occupy?

Will they actually appreciate the centrality of the altar, or would they prefer the pulpit to take a more central place - as the focus of worship? This perhaps could be a legitimate concern for people like Fr. Malcolm.

I think he need not worry about the centrality of the altar in the new Cathedral on The Square. This will be in line with mainstream Anglican worship focus - though maybe not to those in the Church who value the preachment over the 'Word-made-flesh' in the Eucharist.

Having said this, I believe Malcolm has the right idea about the need for a fresh perspective on the actual new cathedral building - at least as fresh as that of its (albeit, temporary) predecessor.

Peter Carrell said...

I think you will find, Ron, that St John's will be fine. They are an Anglican church which celebrates the eucharist and preaches the gospel. Just as St Michael's does ... and the cathedral will do in its temporary abode.

Anonymous said...

Ron has some very strange views of Anglican Evangelicals which do not seem to have any correspondence to reality.

Anonymous said...

The Word is present in the Eucharist through the power of the Holy Spirit, just as the Word is present in Scripture and in the verbal proclamation of the Gospel, through the power and work of the Spirit. The Word is present whenever two or three are gathered together in His name, again through the power of the Spirit.

The distinction Ron makes between the Word present in the Eucharist and the Word present through other means of grace, such as Scripture and preaching, is theologically incoherent and certainly not mainstream Anglican theology or worship.

Peter Carrell said...

I suggest to all commenters here that we generate light when we affirm that we are Anglican and explore what Anglican means; but generate heat when we state or imply that others are less than, not quite fully balanced, undernourished, etc Anglican.

The eucharist is the eucharist whether with bells and smells or without (or just one or the other!); the sermon is the sermon whether lasting 8 mins or 28 mins. I know of no Anglicans in the Diocese of Christchurch which omit sermons or eucharist from their 'diet' of worship services. Let no one, please, imply otherwise, without evidence to back up such statements.

Anonymous said...

"The eucharist is the eucharist whether with bells and smells or without (or just one or the other!); the sermon is the sermon whether lasting 8 mins or 28 mins."

Up to a point, Lord Copper. The eucharist is never silent but always involves spoken prayers. It is essential that the eucharistic prayers and biblical and orthodox, otherwise the eucharist is not the sacramental proclamation of the Word of God as it is understood to be in Anglican theology. That was the whole point of Cranmer's reforms. How many of the smorgasbord of 'eucharistic prayers' in NZ Anglicanism would not pass muster here?
Similarly, the 'sermon' is not the proclamation of the Word of God unless it faithfully teaches the message of the Scriptures. A talk can be witty and interesting, even true, but still fail to be the proclamation of the Word of God. Again, that was the point of Crnamner's reforms, and it's a much harder thing to address than simply rewriting the Sarum sacramentary.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a dog in this fight, though I do have family in Christchurch. My view on ecclestiastical architecture is pretty simple (even vulgar): don't bolt anything down. In the end it is space for meeting, and the furnishings are secondary. We couldn't have grown numerically in churches I've been associated with unless we had reorganised ourselves, sometimes a bit too radically for some people's tastes. I've seen some churches realise they had to change inside, but the edifice complex ('X was married/buried here' etc) is a powerful restraint on change. Flexibility is a great gift to the future! My only other concern would be to remember that this is also a *human space (not an aircraft hangar) and to avoid the errors of 1960s brutalism and concrete, like Coventry Cathedral. Kepp it warm and beautiful inside, as the old ChristChurch Cathedral was.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
You will be alert to context; and the context of my remarks about eucharist and sermon above is life in a church governed by regulations. Thus the eucharist is the eucharist assumes the eucharist according to our canons (i.e. only using an authorised form of worship) and the sermon is the sermon assumes preaching is in accordance with our ministry standards, i.e. preaching the doctrine of Christ as explained in our formularies.

I would never assume that any Anglican colleague was being disobedient to our regulations!

Anonymous said...

"I would never assume that any Anglican colleague was being disobedient to our regulations!"

Me neither! Now I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you ...


P.S. No, Kurt, it isn't yours!)

Anonymous said...

I have never been in any Evangelical church that made the pulpit a focus of worship, but then I have never been in a church that worshipped the bible either, though apparently we do that as well.

But these fantasies are irrelevant. What is relevant is that once again a thread is highjacked by Ron so he can make his derogatory and barely disguised sneering put-downs of evangelical theology and worship. Such put-downs are becoming an almost constant feature of Ron's posts and are extremely tiresome and offensive. Does even a thread about the Cathedral have to be an occasion for this?

carl jacobs said...

A few observations based upon my survey of news stories and advocacy groups surrounding this cathedral.

1. Even $56 million is a great deal of money for what is essentially a luxury item. There are better ways to spend that money. I wonder if renting office space would be better display of stewardship.

2. If you take public money to help rebuild the cathedral, then you are granting the government say in both the disposition and use of the property. There aren't enough words in the legal dictionary to protect you from that interference - even if the public was disposed to give the money free of condition.

3. The effort to rebuild seems driven not by a desire to glorify God but rather by a desire to glorify man. The rebuilt cathedral is intended to serve as a monument to the city and its heritage and its spirit. That is a profane reason to rebuild. It makes the cathedral into something akin to the Tower of Babel.

I am an outsider, and so these are only observations offered for your acceptance or rejection as you see fit. But I would walk away before I would rebuild under these conditions. If the city wants a cathedral as a monument to itself, then let the city build it. A dead empty church for a spiritually dead secular city. Seems a fitting representation.


Peter Carrell said...

Shawn makes a good point Ron: I am now not only going to watch out for 'ad hominems' from you but also 'ad ecclesiams'. No more explicit or implicit put downs of other churches in our diocese!

Father Ron Smith said...

"I am an outsider, and so these are only observations offered for your acceptance or rejection as you see fit. But I would walk away before I would rebuild under these conditions"

A lot of assumptions here - from a self-acknowledged 'outsider' I do think that the Christchurch Cathedral is a matter for locals to carefully consider - but not to serve as a battering ram for 'outsiders'.

A respectful person would leave it to the local people to decided what is best for both its spiritual and civic provenance. Although, I do agree that the spiritual must have the last word here, and I believe it will, under Bishop Victoria.

Pageantmaster said...

I don't know why everyone is in such a hurry. Our Cathedrals were built over hundreds of years, and even our recent ones, Liverpool and Guildford were completed in not less than seventy.

Of one thing I am sure, like the ancient cathedrals, they have to be the product of and owned by the communities they serve, something notably absent from the rhetoric of all sides that I have read in the last few years. The rest of us should stay out of what Christchurch builds, save to encourage unity of this fine and challenged city behind whatever it is that Christchurch Cathedral becomes.

carl jacobs said...


I was deeply offended by FRSs post of April 7, 2013 at 7:23 AM and I am frankly surprised that you posted it.



A respectful person would leave it to the local people to decided what is best for both its spiritual and civic provenance.

Who are you to call me disrespectful? Who are you to judge the subjects upon which I may comment or the opinions that I am allowed to deliver? You scatter your seed to the four winds and comment upon whatever you may desire. I see your comments all over the Anglican blogosphere. I have read them with my own eyes. You respect no national boundaries. You defer to no locals. Yet you would presume to make rules for me?


Bryden Black said...

Carl; you are putting your finger on a serious and important dimension of things here in our city. The difficulty though is once this is on the table, what exactly is it that we can do - for who is the ‘we’?! Depending upon how one answers that question, so the very ‘this’ itself also differs somewhat. For we have all the mixtures, for good and/or ill, of any ‘English’ type cathedral culture. Add to that the sheer fact that we are now collectively entering the third year post-disaster, which the pundits are wont to say is statistically the worst, and you have yet further dimensions to gauge. The fact is that already the ‘bishop-and-the-cathedral’ saga has acted as a ‘useful’ lightening rod for various forms of grief and anger in the face of disaster - and notably by those who do not have any other ‘god’ to go to, unlike the Psalmists!

Personally, I’d have liked an international competition to decide the design of the new Anglican cathedral (for let us not forget, the poor RCC has a similar problem to the Anglicans ...). Whatever you make of the Sydney Opera House, it’s the fruit of just such an exercise; and it’s pretty ‘iconic’! Apparently however the current diocesan architects have some sort of contractual shoe-in. Yet again, I’d have thought that could be negotiated with suitable imagination and good will - as in their being the chair of the panel of judges, and thereafter directly subcontracting the successful winner. But as ever, the Church seems to lack that sort of imagination and courage! So; to my mind, D3 is the best of a not very brilliant job lot! But that verdict merely throws my lot in with a particular ‘we’ and colours a view of the ‘this’ that will clash with others who populate the ‘we’ differently! Anglican ‘cathedral culture’ sure ain’t dull, even as it is susceptible to those more dangerous features you mention, Carl.

Pray for us please!

Anonymous said...


What legal options, if any, does the Christchurch Diocese have when it is clearly under attack by biased reporters and a biased "newspaper"?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (in the light of Carl's comment)

You are in danger of being the first person I have ever outright banned from making comments here.

You simply must stop acting inconsistently. Carl is right. You comments all over the world, treating it as your parish. Yet here you protest that someone makes a comment about life in Chch. A quite pertinent comment, actually.

Consider that you have been warned. Stop attacking commenters here.

mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,
You ask for consistency. That is a fair request as it it your blog. It would be good for you to outlines your 'rules of engagement' for commenters.

I note that your page looks to engage in 'argument', and also that you acknowledge your own capacity to annoy. As you say - " If you do not like being annoyed then you know what to do." Fair enough.

You do call on people to not engage in ad hominem tactics, but then trend that way yourself from time to time - eg saying to Ron "You comments all over the world, treating it as your parish." So consistency is a hard ask for all of us.

Carl was clearly offended by Father Ron's comment. Carl's comments also contained material that could offend. I personally found his final paragraph highly insensitive and hurtful. That is what sometimes happens when we engage in debating (and point scoring?) about issues that are close to our hearts.

If you are looking "for signs of one, holy, catholic and apostolic church among Christians identifying themselves as Anglicans", banning a commenter is hardly a productive way forward. Plenty of contributors to your blog have made comments about others in the wider church that show their bias and their blind-spots. But those perspectives have always been present in the church. We don't grow as a community by telling each other to shut up.

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

As for the Cathedral designs - Liz Gordon and David Pickering said it all in their letters to 'The Press' yesterday.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, this is your blog, and you have every right to publish, or withhold publication of, any item that comes across your threshold. However, in chiding me, I think that, to be consistent, you must also take to take those (like Shawn) who have consistently and persistently criticised my own contributions.

All I ask of you is fairness. But then, can one realistically expect that all contributions will be treated fairly? Perhaps not.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike,
I agree: I am not always myself consistent.
I agree: a healthy church engages in healthy debate and (arguably) we could all develop (on the one hand) skills at engaging issues not people and (on the othe hand) a thicker skin.
I disagree: banning a commenter (as I understand many blogs to experience) may enable a wider variety of comments to be made from a greater diversity if commenters. Put in another way, tolerating free speech for one may inadvertantly suppress free speech for many.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I welcome you commenting here and ask that you focus on issues.

I may not have treated your comments consistently with other comments and I am happy to work on achieving greater consistency.

But let's remember that this thread got skewed to this point because you introduced St John's Latimer Sq into the discussion (and I published it). Nothing to do with any other commenter commenting on you or your comments!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi All
How about we get back to the cathedral.
Mike, above, makes a good point (for local viewers of our Press).
Carl makes a good point re government money. Maybe not such a good point re the role of the cathedral in the spirituality of our city (complex subject, possibly not even locals understand!)
Bryden ... You get the drift. Let's talk about the cathedral, not about each other!

mike greenslade said...

Hi Peter,

I would content that Ron's questions about St Johns LS are fair and legitimate - not skewing the thread at all. The transitional cathedral is destined to be their parish church isn't it?

Having shared a church building with St Johns for a number of years (successfully too), I also wonder how the architecture will suit their liturgical style.

As for banning commenters in the hope of gaining a wider contribution, perhaps Father Ron is not your only target...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
This thread began with the designs for the permanent cathedral. The transitional cathedral and its future occupants have nothing to do with the designs being proposed.

carl jacobs said...


Maybe not such a good point re the role of the cathedral in the spirituality of our city (complex subject, possibly not even locals understand!)

As I said, they were merely observations to be accepted or rejected. What I saw and read was a city wanting to preserve and restore something of itself. Let me illustrate.

Not quite ten years ago, I drove my children to see the farm house in which my mother was born. The land had long since been subsumed into another farm, and most of the buildings were gone. But the house still stood. It was abandoned and soon to be torn down, but it still contained all those memories of my childhood. It was a memorial to a time since past, and a family returned to the dust through death. While it stood, my memories still had a tangible place to reside. The house is gone now, and its absence becomes a metaphor for my own transience. The house left no footprint, and few are they who know it even once existed. So also with me. My Grandparents are gone and my father are gone. My mother will soon die. My brothers and sister are scattered to the four winds. But the house held the memories of when we were all still alive and together. In slips through your fingers like sand at the beach.

God gives each man a time and a place on this Earth, and sets his days from the beginning. It is futile for man to wish for another time, or a second time. This is the time he is given. And we who know the face of God can be content with that. But the man who believes in nothing must struggle with the ever-present impermanence of the world around him. All it does is remind him that he is transient dust that will soon be forgotten. So he clings to images of the past to comfort himself with the illusion of permanence. He looks to the past to project himself into the future.

This isn't a good reason to rebuild a church. It isn't supposed to be about us and our desire for place and permanence. But if that is what an the unbelieving population of a largely unbelieving city desire, then let them spend their own money. They will build a replica of a cathedral, but they will have no desire to worship God within it. They would put no church within for they would not build it to contain a church. They will have built a place to house all the ghosts of their past. And they will periodically visit those ghosts to convince themselves that 200 years for now someone will actually know they once existed.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

E A Poe


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
Thank you for your comment in response to Ron above. I appreciate your personal support for me as moderator. I also appreciate your rebuttal of Ron's implied attack on you (and explicit attacks previously on this blog).

However I am not going to publish the comment because some observations in it are arguable, i.e. could draw further comments in discussion of what you say. I would really like this thread to stay on a 'cathedral' track.

Bryden Black said...

Bryden ... You get the drift. Let's talk about the cathedral, not about each other! PC

I AM talking about the cathedral, and its multiple soothsayers! From Jim Anderton and the Wizard, the latter using it as a backdrop for his antics, to the likes of David Pickering and Bosco Peters: all of 'us' have engaged and are engaging in a dialogue, and other forms of engagement - litigation?! - around a single theme, the Anglican Cathedral.

By placing 'we' so; and 'this' so; I deliberately tried to indicate there are multiple types of precess going on, just as there are multiple 'audiences' and 'constituencies'. THAT's the trouble with ANY "cathedral culture" ala British origins.

Where I believe Carl (who has now expanded more fully) is absolutely correct is to declare, from an explicitly Christian perspective, some of our present 'players' are most seriously misguided and even miscuing entirely. On an explicit Christian blog, it is wholesome to have it clearly stated - for some sorely need it!

[Amusingly, the numerals, in anti-robot mode, are 451, the temp at which paper burns and the title of a book and film about a totalitarian regime: a lovely symbol of "transience"!]

Peter Carrell said...

Apologies, Bryden.
I had meant the way I used your name in the comment above to imply I approved of your making good points about the cathedral. My next plea was to those succumbing to temptation to talk on this thread about other things to get back to the cathedral.

Anyway, yes, it is the cathedral we need to talk about, and somewhat urgently as the consultation period is so short.

Bryden Black said...

No worries cobber!76

Indeed Peter; far too short! What is the hurry - as PageantMaster says.

Anonymous said...

No problem Peter!