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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Holy Trinity Avonside

Images of the devastation to our two cathedrals and inner-city churches are well enough known. Below are photographs taken a few days ago of Holy Trinity Avonside which hasn't featured as much. While taking the photographs it was easy to remember and anticipate all the arguments, present and future, clamouring for protection and rebuilding.

This particular building is likely to be beyond repair. As with the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals there will be strong debate whether this and other church buildings ought to be retained, or rebuilt in the same form as they had before the 22nd of February. Ultimately the question boils down to: why should they be rebuilt that way? The answers need to be weighed for validity in a religious context. Historical, cultural, and city image issues may belong to secular historical buildings, but not to churches.

Many will have had important experiences inside, or associated with, these buildings. For some it will have been feelings of joy and a sense of community, or special events in the stages of life. Others may have been there, perhaps alone, and experienced nothing but the presence of God.

Despite these associations and connections, I am not concerned if the old church buildings are not rebuilt. Young or old, buildings that can kill humans need to go. Old buildings that will cost a great deal of money aren't worth keeping, there is more useful work to do. Most importantly, the outward appearance and interior splendour of church buildings isn't important. God doesn't need houses; all that people need is God. A roof over your head while worshiping God is a comfortable thing, but the building shouldn't become an object of worship. Perhaps there are those who would feel inadequate without a pious-looking cathedral, or by being in a church lacking a suitable outward appearance and nothing but a basic interior.

If design is to be important, then let us look at the things that are important: safety and our environment. An eco-friendly existence has been promoted by the churches, now is the time for them to follow their own lead - go and build safe and environmentally sound buildings.


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