The significant damage to the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral was exacerbated further in the earthquakes of 23 December 2011 and has set back our decision-making about the future of the Cathedral. This update is part of our communication programme as we endeavour to keep communities informed.
We also want to again be clear in stating that buildings, however dear to our heart and beautiful, are secondary to our concern for people. At this time we are especially aware of those who suffered injuries on 22 February 2011 and the families of those who died on that tragic day.
We are also aware that the Church is the people and not the buildings. The proclamation of the Gospel and the ministry and mission of the Kingdom are carried out by people empowered by the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, church buildings do invite us to worship God and lift our spirits in awe and wonder at all God is doing in our lives.
Many of our other places of worship across the Diocese have experienced significant damage, but this statement is really about the Cathedral. The 23 December earthquakes came just as we were finalising the assessment and interim “make safe” plans for it.
The Anglican Christchurch Cathedral is now a very dangerous building and internal access is impossible. Accompanying this statement are some of the photographs of the Cathedral interior and exterior that have been taken from a caged camera on a crane. Any entry into the Cathedral would have put human life in danger.
We are now undertaking new engineering re-assessments of the Cathedral in order to determine what are the realistic options for the building’s future. This means developing updated structural damage reports and heritage assessments, reviewing processes for the retrieval of artifacts, assessing financial implications, and determining safety risks. When we have a peer-reviewed assessment of the building, we will publicly share that assessment as we acknowledge the extraordinary community commitment to the Cathedral. We believe we will be in a position to make an announcement and talk with the church community and the wider community early in March 2012.
Again let me assure you of the concern and prayers for all who are finding the first anniversary of the 22 February 2011 challenging. The Diocese of Christchurch promises to work with the people of Christchurch-Canterbury as we recover together.
We are a resurrection people. No amount of death and destruction will defeat us.
Bishop Victoria Matthews
Anglican Bishop of Christchurch