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Sharing a Cathedral?

Cathedral Saint Peter

What the heck: it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – so I’m going to wade in where angels might fear to tread… angels, dreams, and visions are often in the same story, aren’t they?!

This week, the new Roman Catholic Bishop of Christchurch indicated he is reconsidering whether to restore Christchurch’s earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament or not. Bishop Paul Martin, who was ordained as the new bishop in March, is exploring other options, including building a new cathedral on a more central Christchurch site. He is asking architects to draw up concepts for what a new cathedral might look like on a $40m budget. (Read more here).

Meanwhile, the Anglican Dean and Christchurch’s Anglican Transitional Cathedral put out videos of a meeting with the Christchurch City Council which show some of the speed-bumps towards reinstating the Anglican Cathedral in the Square (see here and here). I think, in essence, the Council would like to come to the party later with $10million – as a top-up if needed (and in a 10-year timeframe). And the Cathedral reinstatement can only start with the assurance of all the money needed up front (and with a completion of Stage 1 within 7 years). (Read more here).

There is a third factor: Just as Bishop Paul is new to the role of RC Bishop of Christchurch, Anglicans meet in August to elect a new Anglican Bishop of Christchurch.

New leadership; new possibilities…

What the heck! I can dream, can’t I?!

There’s plenty of church buildings shared by different denominations – the place where Jesus was born and the place where Jesus died and rose again spring immediately to mind. Military chapels, hospital chapels, airport chapels – these, pretty normally, are shared by denominations. The church building at the top of this post, St. Peter’s Cathedral, has been used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans for five centuries – from just after the Reformation began. The practice of sharing a church building is so common in Europe that German has had a word for it since the Reformation: “Simultankirche”.

Reinstate the Cathedral in the Square as the heart of our city, by all means, but do it together. And share it as a Southern-hemisphere simultankirche. At the moment (as you see in the linked videos) Stage 1 has no tower and no ancillary buildings. With the pooling of insurance payouts, the building could actually function as cathedrals need to.

Services could be at different times and different parts of the building as needs be. Some services could be together (Evensong is used by Roman Catholics, and there’s plenty of Anglicans that pray the Roman Catholic Office for daily prayer).

What a message for Christchurch, New Zealand, and the wider world – not simply words, but a concrete reality around Christian unity, actually working together and highlighting the financially needy…

OK. Maybe I’ve let my imagination wander far enough… So, don’t read on if you are horrified by the fresh air in the age of Pope Francis…

Anglicans and Roman Catholics follow the same readings for the Eucharist. There is absolutely no reason why Anglicans and Roman Catholics in New Zealand could not use the same liturgy all the way up to the Eucharistic Prayer. In fact, Anglicans in New Zealand are allowed to use the Roman Catholic Eucharistic Prayer II (in its pre-2010 translation)… Use your imagination for different ways forward…

OK. I’ve dreamed enough. Now it’s back to down-to-earth, the non-foolish, to make decisions… But what do you think? And I certainly don’t want to get some years down the track and people say to me – sharing the Cathedral in the Square would have been a great idea; why didn’t you say something?!

Here’s a Praise Be episode in the Cathedral in the Square 20 years ago.

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Photo by Stephan M. Höhne – Own work, Sony DSC-R1, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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15 Responses to Sharing a Cathedral?

  1. In the UK I was reading recently about the rebuilding of Christchurch Cathedral,and it gradually occurred to me that there were two, an Anglican and a Roman Catholic. How ridiculous – two churches who declare belief in “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” – yet they need two separate buildings to demonstrate it. How Christ-like is that?

  2. Why not?
    In that famous missing verse from most editions of the Bible, Where there is a will, there is a way!

    • Thanks, Peter. Brilliant motto for a bishop: “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.” Easter Season Blessings.

  3. It ought to happen.

    Of course being in unity is messy and awkward (Think of those places in the church where the three tikanga work together on a daily basis…) but it is in this awkwardness that we find growth and beauty.

    So, are we up for it? It’s a bold move. It would require careful negotiation, but imagine how beautiful it would be in witness.

    • Thanks, Chris. There have been monasteries that have done this – and, as you indicate, there was much mutual growth. Blessings.

  4. [snark]
    Should a Church steeped in the Apostolic Succession be unequally yoked to one which isn’t?
    [/snark]

    • Thanks, David. I think the questioning of Apostolic Succession of post-Vatican II RC orders is better discussed elsewhere 😉 Easter Season Blessings.

  5. One of my favourite places in England was Chester Cathedral, sharing the site’s long history ( dating back to Roman times ) with a variety of events and spaces secular and Christian https://chestercathedral.com

    A phrase I have seen and heard there often: ‘ Everyone is welcome – of any faith or none.’

    The Unitarian Church I worked at here last year is about to share a space with a Jewish congregation, benefiting both groups financially and culturally.

    In Houston ( yes, Texas! ) this past 15 years I have been involved in many interfaith events and with the UN International Choir, seen so many people working together to promote understanding, ecology and world peace!

    You are right Bosco: ‘What a message for Christchurch, New Zealand, and the wider world – not simply words, but a concrete reality…’

    Why should it be a stretch of either imagination or practicality or faith? Jesus said ‘behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.’ ‘Within our souls’ as well as ‘in the midst’ of us people!

  6. In some places in the UK, where “Ecumenical” partnerships are in place, different denominations share not just churches, but also a Minister as well.

    And these partnerships work very well, in some, the ministers rotate between denominations, or team ministry’s are in place, with ministers of different denominations, working alongside one another, celebrating the liturgy of each others as well.

    There are some Joint RC/CofE schools as well, so cooperation isn’t anything new.

    Perhaps the Spirit will move in the Bishops involved and something will come of your dream.

    • Thanks, “BW”, for this support for thinking about this. Please: here we use our ordinary Christian name. Pentecost Day Blessings.

    • Thanks, Paul. Very interesting. The profile link you had wasn’t working – so I have edited your link to simply give the website which is fascinating. Blessings.

  7. Bosco, ther have been precedents in the matter of a shared church building by Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Aotearoa. My old Auckland parish of the Hibsiscus Coast used to share our church of Saint Stephen at Whangaparaoa in the 1980s – to enable a mid-week Mass for local Roman Catholics.
    let it only be whispered that, on occasions, the R.C. priest used our Communion vessels as well as our vestments. We had a very good relationship.

    I think one of the factors involved was the fact that our congregations were taught that Christ is actually present in the Eucharistic Elements.

    Your idea then, Bosco, is not so far-fetched. With the new R.C. Bishop of Christchurch; Cardinal Dew as the local Archbishop; and Pope Francis in Rome, what might not be a distinct possibility?

    Of course, it could all be scuppered by a new Anglican Bishop who did not approve.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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