Comments: opinion for Quinquagesima

Re Harry Mount's article on Saint Paul's,

I remember reading somewhere that Byron described Saint Paul's as so much commerce piled high to the sky. When I visited Saint Paul's a couple of years ago, I was struck by how small "the riding redoubtable dome of Saint Paul" looked compared to all of the commerce that really was piled high to the sky around it. The cathedral looked like an old high church vicar who was an unwelcome guest at the executive board meeting of an international bank.

Unlike so many generations of English writers, I've always loved Saint Paul's. I think Wren should stand up in his grave and take a bow for producing so fine a monument through all the fickle demands of clergy, patrons, and commissions. Congratulations to Wren for bearing them all with such patience, and for having the great good fortune to outlive so many of them, and to see his work completed.

Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 1:39pm GMT

I worked for the Church Information Office, Westminster, in the 1960s and was often at St. Paul's. (I heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the undercroft.) What's always struck me about the building is that it's not what it appears. The church itself is a gothic layout, with long nave and transepts and concealed buttresses, but outside it appears a rectangular Greek Classic structure with tall walls. The outside walls are screens (the upper row of windows on the sides are dummies). Even the dome is tricky -- what you see above the crossing isn't what you see from outside, and the real load-bearing dome is a brick job in between. Lovely art, certainly, and an achievement of artifice.

Posted by Murdoch at Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 10:55pm GMT

Concerning the cathedral church in New Zealand -- compare the building that was damaged with Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. They look much the same, but the construction in San Francisco is reinforced concrete. Yes, classic cathedral churches are stone on stone -- but sometimes one should be practical. Construction of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City was delayed for years as they tried to sink foundations for a proper East-facing altar; they could have built the thing on an adjoining ridge in less time and finished it. (It still lacks transepts, West towers, and spire, and probably will never be completed.) The Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, put up as a seat of Anglo-Catholicism, looks a proper French Gothic building -- but it's steel and plaster, skyscraper structure. Maybe it's all appearances.

Posted by Murdoch at Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 11:09pm GMT

"The Anglican cathedral in the heart of Christchurch has become a forlorn, desolate tomb; felled by a destructive double-act of God. The massive earthquake of 4 September was the first blow which no doubt weakened it; the killer blow came in the form of the latest quake."

- Dallas Graham, in the Guardian -

As a citizen of Christchurch, I object to the woeful report of the situation vis a vis our badly-damaged Cathedral that has been produced by former citizen, Dallas Graham.

His unbelief betrays his nihilistic view of God at work in creation - imputing to God the action of nature at work in the two recent earthquakes. What Graham does not understand is that nature has been 'set free' by God to be 'itself' - not manipulated by a divine puppet-master, wreaking vengeance where-er He may.

All that aside, Graham's suggestion may have some merit - when he proposes that perhaps the idea of creating further stone buildings in a quake-prone environment may not prove to be the best option for any future building of a new Cathedral - or indeed any substantial building meant to last the test of time in these 'Shaky-Isles' - as they were known to the early Settlers. However, the future of our Cathedral is best left to those for whom it was primarily built - people of Faith in the God of Love - who certainly would not direct the divine engergies to torpedoing the buildings that have been erected 'To the Glory of God'.

We cannot blame God for 'natural disasters'. This is a myth that Christianty - and most religious faith communities which accommodate the gift of Reason in their theology - would soundly reject.
We speak here of a God whose only-begotten Son has already shared in the 'Fall', by virtue of his Incarnation, life and sacrifical Death - as a subject of, as well as co-author of, Creation.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 11:46pm GMT

>> There seems to be no end to the comments on this.

Interesting, I haven't noticed a single word on this in papers outside the UK.

>> We cannot blame God for 'natural disasters'. This is a myth that Christianty - and most religious faith communities which accommodate the gift of Reason in their theology - would soundly reject.

Nope. Actually, Catholics said the Lisbon earthquake of 1775 was God's wrath on Portugal for tolerating the presence of Protestants and Jews. Cf: Voltaire's introduction to Candide.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Monday, 7 March 2011 at 2:35am GMT

Stephen Tomkins might, too, have mentioned the Book of Common Prayer, older than the King James Bible, 1549, revised in 1552, 1662, and 1928, each time retaining the language of the 16th century which persisted into both 'Series 1' and 'Series 2.' Even the Alternative Services Book and Common Worship make provision for use of 'traditional language', showing how persistent is the English need to worship God with words which, while retaining their resonance, have largely lost their meaning.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 7 March 2011 at 9:25am GMT

Well, Randall - I did say that is was limited to 'faith communities which accommodate the gift of REASON in their theology' that would reject the idea of blaming God for natural disasters.

Some modern pentecostal and evangelical sects are also prone to attributing vengeance to God in their desire to visit 'consequences' upon modern society for it's perceived 'wickedness'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 7 March 2011 at 9:27am GMT

Randall - and of course Hurricane Katrina was God's wrath on the sodomites of New Orleans and the Haiti earhquake God's revenge for voodoo.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 7 March 2011 at 10:28am GMT

An interesting piece from George Pitcher, who is developing a unique style as Rowan's Secretary for Public Affairs. Perhaps those like Jonathan Jennings and others who have much greater knowledge and who comment here might correct me - but it's highly unusual for someone in George's position to maintain a strident "independent voice" and on such a prominent stage. Predecessors and others in similar positions as advisors elsewhere - tend to get their stories out through "channels" and are happy to remain relatively unknown, particularly if they are actually "running" their principals. Hmmm maybe if you have absolutely no influence you are more likely to follow George's plan .... still that's idle speculation.

George is banging one of his favourite drums in this blog post, but while I too have as much concern for the few aggressive secularist one meets as I have for aggressive religionists - I am not sure I agree with this diatribe.

Surely we all want to know what the truth of the situation in the UK is?
Does it help anybody is someone answers the question on religious affiliation "Christian" just for something to say - or because they are uncomfortable telling the truth?

While I fully support the plan that we should respect people who self identify as this or that in a wide range of fields - I'm not sure that we should be worried by anyone encouraging the British people to think seriously about this and to tell the truth!

If people answering the census were comfortable enough to tell it as it is one does suspect that the 70+% who last time identified as Christian might be somewhat less.

One does wonder what George is frightened of. Is it the secularists - or is it something else? No matter what the Daily Telegraph says in its leaders Christians, particularly the CofE, enjoys a privileged status and, Yes - some people (including Christians) want that to end!

So in trying to protect a vague (possibly inaccurate) notion of a Christian nation perhaps George is not too far from his front line duty of protecting his employer and his right to sit in the House of Lords and other privileges he and his colleagues enjoy.

I'd be interested to hear what others think.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 7 March 2011 at 11:36am GMT

@ Ron and Richard:

Well the one thing for sure is, we don't ever see much in the way of headlines blaming God for good weather, do we, lol! Guess there's no mileage in that, hehe.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Tuesday, 8 March 2011 at 2:48am GMT

Randall - the sun has been shining for three days here. God must be very pleased with us here in the South of England!

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 8 March 2011 at 5:19pm GMT

Further to Randall's and Richard's remarks; the sun has been shining wonderfully here in Christchurch for the last 2 days also. Does that mean that God has 'repented' of the 'evil God has done to us' - in not one but two earthquakes?
The whole business of blaming God for natural disasters is surely not a concept that any Thinking anglican would want to espouse.

WE had a lovely Ash Wednesday traditional Ashing and Eucharist in a little 'A'-frame church on the outskirts of Christchurch this morning. The readings were of the day - reminding us that: *You art dust, and unto dust you shall return". This is a fact we all ought to take seriously - a natural sequence for the mortal body, which is a temporary 'temple of the Holy Spirit'.

Our own parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels (perhaps the only church left standing in the inner city) is being cleared of much internal clutter fromn the earthquake, but we are looking forward (Deo Gratias) to worshipping there for the rest of Lent and Easter - the Resurrection Feast for all Believers. Today, it was good to join others in the Body of Christ to share the 'hope that is set before us' en Christo.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 9 March 2011 at 4:06am GMT
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