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Our building is munted – the church is fine

I can fantasise.


I was in a café recently and asked the man sitting next to me where he was from. Christchurch, he said. And then: Originally I came from Egypt. We talked for a bit about Egypt, my experiences there, and how it has changed; and about Christchurch, the earthquakes, our homes, and the future here.

Then he asked me what I did. I told him I am a priest. He said he is a Christian also. A Coptic Christian, I ventured; their church has been munted* by the quakes and I expressed my sadness for them. He smiled, it was no huge deal. We can worship the Lord anywhere, he said. The building is munted – the church is fine, I suggested, and we both laughed.


I stood by where the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church used to be. An old sign said, our building is cracked – the church is fine and meeting at… The sign was old, because after further quakes, the building is not merely cracked, it is now a pile of rubble.


I regularly say, we are the church – the building is there to stop the church getting wet.


I fantasise about a Christchurch/Canterbury-wide ecumenical movement with slogans/straplines such as, “our buildings are munted – the churches are fine”. Maybe a simple logo: simple, stick-like figures holding hands spiralling from a munted building to serve amongst rubble and in a community with munted buildings, maybe carrying a cross… Used on letterheads, newspaper advertisements, websites, banners. At each location where a church building used to be, a map and information also indicating where other Christian communities are now meeting nearby, whatever their denomination. An ecumenical website with a map and pins with information where Christian communities are currently meeting…

I can fantasise…


*munted – probably one of the most commonly heard terms around Christchurch – meaning: wrecked, damaged

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22 thoughts on “Our building is munted – the church is fine”

  1. Nice piece Bosco… true for much much more than the Church I’d venture to suggest. Maybe a city wide slogan?

    I am (as teens would say) so over the photos of wrecked buildings, and the suggestion that ‘this is so sad’ etc. Where others see ruined buildings, I see opportunity.. and not just opportunity for new buildings. This is about new beginnings, re-birth, dare I say it.. resurrection of a literal physical kind!! Resurrection of the spirit of a city!!!

    “The buildings are munted, but the people are fine”.

    Thanks again.

    Kind regards

    1. Thanks, Robin for your positive mindset and contribution. Wouldn’t it be great to see such a lead from the church being picked up, as you suggest, by the city. We can fantasise. 🙂

  2. I love that idea. I’ve been hearing stories of congregations from different denomination sharing buildings – one congregation worshipping in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Not only is each individual Church doing fine, the wider CHURCH is working together and being fantastic.

        1. Thanks, Adulcia, (these sermons are a little longer than mine 😉 ) I’m appreciating listening to this one while I’m doing some sorting (actually, post-quakes sorting…)

  3. There is a song from a Christian music artist here that said a number of years a go, “what if the buildings burned?” questioning why we focus on the buildings and not the needs and the people we are here to serve. With what you’ve had in New Zealand, and in other parts of our world as well there is a chance to step beyond the walls…I pray we can do it and find a way to reach people with a love that goes beyond the walls and into the hearts of those in need. Amen.

    1. Thanks, Chris. I wonder if you can find that song/lyrics.

      In corners I even occasionally pick up conversations that question whether in this new context it is appropriate to use the massive insurance payouts on the type of expensive buildings that went up, probably pretty much unquestioned, in the nineteenth century…

  4. Bosco,
    That comes from one of my favorite Christian Artists of the late 80s. His name is Phillip Sandifer and he’s still singing! The Song is called “What if the Buildings Burned.” I’ll email you the chorus and a section of one of the best verses (in my opinion!) as well as a link to the song.

      1. Here is the info on the “What if the Buildings Burned,” song. It is from the album by Phillip Sandifer.

        What if the buildings burned?
        What if the fire spreads out of control?
        Will we still love each other?
        Feel a burden for our brother?
        What if the buildings burned?
        What if the skies grow dark from the smoke?
        Will we then see the needing?
        Will we bandage the bleeding,
        if the buildings burned?

        One of my favorite of the last verses goes like this;

        …We might do well to light the fire ourselves
        the insurance could feed the world for years
        if the buildings burned!

        Here’s where you can listen to it:

  5. Point me to a list of sites, I can get a Google Maps-style online map together, if that would be a first step. Not a problem.

  6. Okay, how about a list of people whose churches are “munted” (“tattered and torn”?) Where can I find a list of (as a start) Anglican churches in the area that might have been affected?

  7. My favourite anthem:

    ‘My life goes on in endless song:
    Above earth’s lamentation,
    I catch the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
    That hails a new creation.
    Through all the tumult and the strife
    I hear the music ringing;
    It finds an echo in my soul–
    How can I keep from singing?
    What tho’ my joys and comfort die?
    The Lord my Saviour liveth;
    What tho’ the darkness gather round?
    Songs in the night he giveth.
    No storm can shake my inmost calm,
    While to that refuge clinging;
    Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
    How can I keep from singing?
    I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
    I see the blue above it;
    And day by day this pathway smooths,
    Since first I learned to love it.
    The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
    A fountain ever springing;
    All things are mine since I am his–
    How can I keep from singing?’

  8. I see there is an idea suggesting a temporary “Cardboard Cathedral” for Christchurch. Obviously the long-term goal would still be rebuilding a “proper” cathedral some time (or several, really, since so many denominations’ main churches/cathedrals in the city were damaged), but the experience after the earthquakes has reinforced our knowledge that some things are more important than pretty stone buildings, and there certainly are more important priorities at the moment.

    Now, what would be the factors for and against having a temporary cathedral that is cross-denominational?? I already think that some who had suggested this (or more watered-down, non-religious even, replacements for the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral at the centre of the city) for the permanent replacement were wrong (mainly because they didn’t appreciate all that goes on in the several large building complexes it would try to replace, but also due to some “technical” issues with church rules, which I don’t really understand).

    But for the temporary cathedral, I would quite like to see it being used by several congregations that have lost their main meeting places… it would be a tricky job scheduling crowds in and out perhaps, but would it be even harder to do it due to “red tape”… to do with (say) Catholic rules about what can be the “seat” of the Bishop; like Church Property Trustees restrictions, etc? Is it something never attempted before? What do others think?

    1. I think it is the sort of fascinating, lateral thinking that we need at a time like this, Mark. I think on Peter Carrell’s blog he suggested a multi-denominational cathedral – you might paste your comment there also. As he has been good enough to point his readers to my post, you might mention that you were pointed there from here 🙂

    2. I like the idea, in theory at least 🙂 I believe I remember reading that the Catholic Archdiocese of Christchurch has already designated St. Mary’s as its Pro-Cathedral; I’m not sure if that involves much beyond an administrative decision and moving the cathedra around; but on the other hand St. Mary’s is already a Catholic church. I’m not sure what would have to be done for a multi-denominational building.

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