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Christchurch contemporary cathedral

Cathedral Christchurch Option 3
Option 3 – Contemporary

At the Christchurch diocesan synod meeting last weekend, Church Property Trustees (the official owners of the cathedral), announced the decision about the earthquake-damaged cathedral in the Square. Of the three options (1.Restore; 2. Traditional; 3. Contemporary) they have decided that they will build a contemporary replacement.

There was a formal question at synod about progress about the consideration of what has become known as “Option 3B“.

In the original unveiling of the three options it was unclear what was fixed and what were “placeholders”. Questions led to little explicit clarification. One example: the multi-storey-height image of Madonna and Child has not been commissioned – that image was clearly a “placeholder”, and some other image might go at that point.

I expressed concerns about the arrangement of the spaces of Option 3 as presented.

But now it is clearer: it has been decided that, essentially, the whole of Option 3 is a “placeholder”.

Bishop Victoria Matthews told The Press option three – the modern Warren and Mahoney concept drawing – could be altered or completely redesigned.

Safety and cost were key considerations, but the trust was “not immune to new ideas”.

“But it’s a contemporary cathedral – that we can say without question,” she said.

There has been much criticism of the process, and comparison of it with being, inappropriately, like a beauty pageant. This latest decision now means, however, that, for example, an international competition, with the design group as the judges, has not been ruled out.

On the other hand, the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) has offered to fund initial stablisation and make-safe work of the damaged nineteenth-century building, and restore it, starting immediately, and completing that within seven years at a cost for full restoration of $67 million. The GCBT has pledged to raise the difference between the insurance payout and that cost.

At the time of writing, 40% of responders to the online vote agree with the decision to have a contemporary building, 42% want a full restoration, 20% don’t care and just want people to get on with it. There are court cases still pending to try and have the nineteenth-century building restored.

If a contemporary building is what goes up I think it must be breathtaking, iconic, and embodying best practice in both worship spaces and contemporary Christian meeting and mission place.

[UPDATE: The Press today carried this opinion piece Is this the best the Anglicans can do?]

Some other synod decisions

  • A bill was passed which will enable post-earthquake structural changes in the diocese.
  • Ministry units should not apply for money made from pokie machines.
  • The vote on the Sea Sunday formulary was resoundingly defeated and a message sent once again to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui: fix the liturgical chaos.

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12 Responses to Christchurch contemporary cathedral

  1. I’m very much pro a contemporary option. I won’t go into why here though.

    I agree with your statement that “If a contemporary building is what goes up I think it must be breathtaking, iconic, and embodying best practice in both worship spaces and contemporary Christian meeting and mission place.”

    But I would really like to see inclusivity/community in that list. As the children/families worker in my parish I find that having a children’s chapel that is separate from the main building can send the message that children aren’t full members of the body (with infant baptism we have no excuse when it comes to including children).

    It can also become impractical to run a children’s sunday school that far away from the main congregation (eg. it’s not obvious where visitors and parents should send their kids).

    Children can’t just be a tack-on to out understanding of church space and worship. Missionally they need to be at the heart of it.

    Thanks,

    Lukas

      • I love the phrase “In order to recognise the equality of children and adults, occasionally the children need to be able to stay in church and the adults leave for their liturgy of the Word in the hall!”

        I also love the idea of children being part of the “main” service. But I it a little optimistic to imply that a child’s curiosity is enough to warrant them sitting through liturgy that is not written with their vocabulary and cognitive framework in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I love our liturgy, but I also know from experince that kids struggle with it.

        This seems to be a trend I see. We write or do something that appeals to adults and try to fit the kids into that model. Rather than starting with children and building on that. For an interesting perspective check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWqssQ2_z-M

        • Thanks, Lukas. I don’t know how much of my book you have read. The words of the “liturgy that is not written with their vocabulary and cognitive framework in mind” are about 5-10 minutes at most. Furthermore, I think people grossly underestimate children. I too am speaking from experience. Liturgy need not be the book-bound, highly-literate-exercise we constrain it to be. If the gospel means anything, surely it is about all of us around God’s table – not excluding some, segregating others, and patronising others. This is a big topic, but one very close to my heart. I think the kiddyfying of the gospel means it is something we grow out of, rather than a life for every age and stage. The video you provide is an interesting “as well as”, but I fear if it becomes an “instead of”. I encourage you to listen to my talk. Blessings.

    • “Children can’t just be a tack-on to out understanding of church space and worship. Missionally they need to be at the heart of it.”
      Thank you for this comment Lukas. I definitely agree. Do you think children’s ministry is undervalued because there is no licence required, no prestige, commonly carried out by women (like aged care workers)?

      Sorry Bosco – this is off the topic.

  2. I wonder whether the meaning of “contemporary” means different things today compared with the peak of the “ugly modernist” building boom during the last half of the 20th Century? A talk in Christchurch yesterday by Mel McGowan from Visioneering Studios (“Building 21st Century Churches”; see http://www.visioneeringstudios.com/home.asp and select ‘worship.’) had a few things to say about what “modern” architecture and “contemporary” (accent on temporary?) has come to mean, but I suspect that for most people (pro or anti) there is an assumption that it very much implies a “statement” in architecture that is trying to declare it is a product of “today’s” world, rather than architecture that is *for* today’s world.

    There was some similarity in the concept yesterday of the architucture saying “you have arrived [at a church; at the centre ofthe city]” to another talk I heard talking of the need to see a recognisable church when they see church architecture.

    Ideally, I think, “contemporary” should mean a design made with full knowledge of what people need today (and may need in the near future, but without being so general-purpose it is not very good for anything – or “a multi-useless” facility, I think Mel said), rather than something that is trying very hard to look strange for the sake of showing off. So it could still have neo-gothic ideas or a copy of familiar elements, or an up-turned waka at the entrance, so long as they are what is really needed in the present.

    • “… so long as they are what is really needed in the present”

      I find this interesting. I think the only way to future-proof a design is not to ask the question “what do people need today?”, but instead ask “what kind of building will help the church to fulfill the great commission, which is to ‘go make disciples'”.

      If we ask that question then it will need to be informed by Rowan Williams’ “mixed economy” and what it looks like to have different expressions of church all feel like this central icon is a place where they can experience God.

      … sound doable?

      • IMO, Lukas, worship is an end in itself, not merely a means to enable evangelism. The confusion of the two is common now – with a lot of worship degenerating into an evangelising tool. Blessings.

        • I agree with you that worship is not just a means to evangelism. I have no interest in reducing worship to an evangelism tool.

          I should probably clarify. When Jesus used the phrase “make disciples” I don’t think he was referring to a “you need to pray the sinner’s prayer” evangelism.

          Discipleship, helping people follow Christ is far bigger than that.

          James K.A. Smith talks about worship being something that shapes our “desire”. This is helpful because it links worship to the call to take up our cross and follow. Our desire ought to be to follow Christ by doing what he asks.

          I don’t think it is possible to separate evangelism, discipleship, and worship. I see all of them coming together in holistic “following”.

          That’s just my view though.

          p.s. sorry that this seems to be getting off topic.

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