Comments: opinion for Advent

Giles Fraser writes about the cost of maintaining church buildings, but his experience is of London, wealthy Putney and the wealthy city, where massive parishes make the cash available.

In rural Wiltshire that is not the case. I know of a parish nearby where about 6-12 regular worshippers struggle to maintain a listed building, and struggle with feelings of anxiety and guilt when they can't do as well as they would like.

Surely it would be better if they could let go of that costly building (costly in cash, energy and time) and perhaps set up some form of 'church' in the local village hall (St Anne's Soho is a perfect example of flexible dual use) and then be able to devote their energies to looking after each other, not looking after cold redundant stone.


Simon

Posted by Simon Dawson at Saturday, 27 November 2010 at 11:52am GMT

Simon, unfortunately, your anguish over redundant churches in Wiltshire fall deaf. I would suspect (in fact I know in a place called 'Chute'-meanwhile vehicles maintained by the military that are worth more than any church are merrily running around in nearby Tidworth) that there are million-pound estates where the locals spend more money on their horse barns than the entire parish ever did on a religious edifice.

It all comes down to priorities. When I see yuppie atheists throwing money away (like I did last night in suburban Detroit) while the inner core rots, it is in reality a sad reflection of the deterioration of our society, and how we spend our time. I currently live in a city where a portion of the local sales tax goes to maintain _three_ professional sport(s) complexes (Browns, Indians and Cavaliers, if you have to know) but not a thought is put into transferring these funds to needed mass transit, public schools and retraining the unemployed.

There are abandoned magnificent Roman Catholic structures in this major mid-western town that are rotting away, while an intransigent leadership ponders such ridiculous notions of calling a sizable portion of the human population "intrinsically dysfunctional" and denies one half of the human population any meaningful leadership role within itself.

It is the leadership of these organizations that need to be abandoned, not the buildings that were selflessly built to the glory of God by our forebearers.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Saturday, 27 November 2010 at 3:05pm GMT

Is there really only the choice between abandoning ancient historic buildings or relying on 30 pensioners on a restricted income plus a fundraising committee in a small village to finance their upkeep?

Both is ludicrous but you can see why the villagers struggle.
Maybe someone can come up with something a bit more credible and sustainable?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 27 November 2010 at 7:10pm GMT

I want to acknowledge Andrew Brown for writing, and Savitri Hensman for participating, here: "Rowan and Eagleton on atheism"

Per usual, the Guardian's bog-standard anti-theists are filling the thread w/ in(s)anities like this: "You only get explanations on the basis of open, positive evidence, falsifiable hypotheses and repeated verification by experiment" [AS IF that were not ***just another religious faith-claim*** (no more or no less than, say, Joseph Smith and his Golden Tablets in Neo-Egyptian!)]

Can the anti-theists PLEASE adopt a shaved-head top-knot, or (like the aforementioned Mormons) sacred underwear, so everyone can RECOGNIZE them for their cult-like proclivities? O_o

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 28 November 2010 at 12:49am GMT

"(King) James told him: "Many a man would speak of Robin Hood, who never drew a bow." In other words celibate clergy are not the best people to advise others on sexuality. By extension that advice could be extended beyond the Vatican to Anglican clergy and activists for whom sex seems to be as obsessive a prurient interest as it is for the mindless redtop tabloids.

As Timothy West read from St Matthew, 7:1: "But let us judge not, that we be not judged."

- Michael White -

This is rather an apt comment, made by Michael White in his Guardian article on The Church & Sex.
The prurience often stems from a fear of sexuality - surely not a healthy platform from which to dictate to others what may or may not be a proper way of expressing it.

At least , with Pope Benedict's latest statement on the appropriate use of condoms, he is seemingly ready to acknowledge that sex, can, in certain circumstances, be engaged in without the primary intention of procuring a pregnancy. The fact the the Vatican bureaucrats are now trying desperately to deny any change in R. Catholic doctrine on this matter, is only further proof of the disconnections that can be discerned within the different channels of communication within the Roman Ramparts.

What ought to worry the C.of E. about Michael's story, is that he sees the official Anglican attitude towards the expression of sexuality to be equally obscurantist. Is this why General Synod decided to go with the Covenant, I wonder?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 28 November 2010 at 10:45pm GMT

Across the channel Erika, the government (supposedly) maintains the ecclesiastical structures, and I would reckon that the RCC has to pay some sort of "rent". Based on my observation of the condition of the cathedral at Chartres, I'd say they're not getting their money's worth, as it needs a good cleaning..

Over here in 'Uhmerka the idea of any taxpayer money going to any religion was repugnant, but with the past president's "Faith-Based Initiatives, (Hate-Based Intiatives???!!) Federal funding does find it's way into charitable causes, and ultimately care for buildings.

It is surely not fair for a dwindling flock to be totally burdened with maintaining a multi-century old building, but it is equally reprehensible to tax a society for millionaire sports players and owners.

I would say that there are not easy answers to a situation that deserves better....

Posted by evensongjunkie at Monday, 29 November 2010 at 1:59am GMT

Evensongjunkie,
but this isn't just about "ecclesiastical structures". If it were, we could close the churches and build a modern church somewhere else.

This is about maintaining historic buildings for the sake of everyone who uses them and for the sake of all those who like to see historic buildings preserved for their own sake.

People who use them include twice a year Christians, people who turn out for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals, people who come for concerts, for art exhibitions etc. They are not just your regular Sunday congregation, they are potentially anyone.

Everything we do in our church has to be approved not just by the Diocese but also get planning permission from the County Council and approval from English Heritage.
They ensure not only that the building is kept in good repair but that the repairs are done in the appropriate style using the appropriate materials - all of which adds layers of costs.

If the nation has a legitimate interest in preserving these buildings then it should also help pay for them.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 29 November 2010 at 12:34pm GMT
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