Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Super-Cathedral: Why Not?

Rebuilding Christchurch's two EQ-savaged cathedrals into one Anglican/Catholic super-cathedral is under discussion at top levels in the Anglican Church.
So reported last weekend's Sunday Star Times in a full front-page feature. A stunning story which, if it came to pass, could have global implications...yet already some are pouring cold holy water on the idea. In fact, Monday's Press carried a very small P.3 story saying the whole story was basically wrong and no such talk had ever happened!
Let's examine the idea anyway:
(1) Christchurch has (the remains of) two large EQ-damaged iconic cathedrals, one Anglican, one Catholic.
(2) Both need substantial money to rebuild.
(3) One - Anglican - is too far gone to be much more than building material. The other - Catholic - has vague potential for restoration.
(4) The word from the confessional is that the Catholics' coffers - plus insurance - can cover their own rebuild. The Anglicans still require big
govt/public support.
Now, as all denominations will tell you, a church is NOT a building - its the believers. With that in mind, why not restore the more viable of the two buildings, as a venue for both faiths / congregations to use?
(1) It would a damn sight cheaper than trying to do justice to both.
(2) If it's the Catholic Basilica that's selected, the location is far better from a rebuilding perspective and also better for public access and parking.
(3) There is no suggestion of combining RELIGIONS. Although this would put Catholics and Anglicans together under the same cathedral roof for the first time in the world since the churches split in the C16th., that's not the issue (the concept is about 'shared space, not shared faith'). It is however a hobbiehorse being ridden hard by some who're negative to the combination suggestion. One is Christchurch's Catholic Bishop Barry Jones. He admits that South Island Anglican congregations have been very hospitable to displaced Catholics, but struggles to imagine the city's two cathedrals following suit: "A cathedral is the bishop's church by definition and how you would have a building serving as a church of two bishops, I can't imagine." It's quite easy really, Bish...but first you have to be open to the idea. If smaller congregations can do it, so can you. Do you fear losing your personal powerbase perhaps?
(4) Political parties have co-leaders - why can't a cathedral have two bishops, perhaps with a cathedral house manager appointed? Congregations would have different service/mass times. When you consider that both cathedrals had falling attendances anyway prior the earthquakes, there'll be plenty of time and space in a restored building for all.
Surely this is a (God-given?) opportunity for both churches to set aside their differences in order to learn from one another and heal together. Apart from being in the best interests of the poorest people in the community, it would also be an iconic, powerful and unprecedented symbol.
Rather than dismissing it out of hand, I believe discussions must be held to see if it's possible or practical. There is no justification for spending multi-millions to repair or rebuild both cathedrals.

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