Friday, April 22, 2005

A Response

The following entry was originally written as a response to someones comment on my "Star Trekkin" post while it was still over at MSN Spaces. I have included the comment ahead of my response to give some idea of the original context:
P.A was 'ere! OK the money could have been better used but at the end of the day u can't take away ppls rights to be ass-holes, by the same token the church could sell some of its buildings and lands and use that to wipe out some of the 3rd world debts i mean come on look at the cathedrals all in prime city centre sites, that land would be worth a fortune. The church is notorious for taking from the poorest of ppl and giving nothing back in return "pay now for your down payment in the afterlife, the more u give the more u'll be saved" also most of the cathedrals are in such a poor state of repair they are constantly paying millions just to keep them up, prime example is York minster where they have a door charge to enter the house of god! oh and a shop inside as well .... now i seem to remember from my catholic upbringing he scattered the traders from the temple once before, seems to me if he does return he'll feel right at home and have a great time turning over a few stalls set up at the back of many churches.
3-2-1 i'm gone P.A byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
You may be interested to know that I actually largely agree. Do you know how much I sometimes wish an asteroid would just fall out the sky and knock our own church into the ground?

In the middle ages people wanted to honour God by building magnificent places of worship. It's been said you can always tell what a culture values the most, by the size of it's buildings. Back then it was churches... today commercial towers dominate the skyline. Rather sadly.
Anyway back to your point. As time wears on, these places, though architecturally magnificent, become increasingly archaic and impractical to manage. So this is the big question... do we bulldoze something of value (in terms of cultural decadence), or do we keep. it. Personally I feel that churches should be practical places. that require a low economy to run/maintain. Don't get me wrong, I value artistry and architecture quite strongly, but I believe if something is being kept for artistic and cultural value, then it should be cultural and heritage institutions that fund their upkeep. The role of a church building is to be a place that attends to the spiritual needs of a person foremost; a place of worship, a place of prayer, a place of inspiration and reflection. Art does have value within the church, but not ars gratia artis (art for arts sake).
The Archbishop of Canterbury recently urged the Anglicans to think global, act local. Which is excellent in principal. However, when the CofE itself syphons of colossal amounts of your church's money so that IT can act global, not to mention fund rather large clergy pensions, it becomes rather a hypocritical thing to say.
Personally I'd be very happy to see my church secede from the Church of England. That way we could invest more money in spreading the Gospel, and also supporting the needs of the community. I'd also be OK if the church of England ceased being a state religion. Why? Well, if the CofE stopped messing around trying to please everybody, and started sticking to it's guns, people might respect it a little more.
The saying goes that you can't please everyone... so you shouldn't try if it compromises what you are. It's far better to be true to yourself and honest about what you believe, instead of mucking about here and there and pandering to everything.
The centre cannot hold anyway, one day the older churches are going to be impossible to maintain financially, and then we will have come full circle and be back in people's homes... which is awesome!.
I don't care for all the robes and finery. An archbishop looks just as stupid squatting on the loo as any of us do! they aren't any more important... the wise ones (like the retiring archbishop of York), know this.
I went to a confirmation last year, and I had to stop myself laughing. the bishop overseeing it must have thought he was Gandalf. Every time he blessed someone by the laying on of hands, he badly exaggerated his gestures. He reached as far as he could behind him and then brought his arms fully forward... as if he was conjuring something up. It looked like he was doing breast stroke! there is no need for this. The power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit resides in the heart's of faithful men, and the covenant is between God and the recipient. If the bishop is anything, he's merely a vessel.
The things that upset me the most are places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity. What I find most beautiful about those places, is the fact that they are so humble locations, that played host to the most powerful events in history... the humility is part of that power, and yet it is denied because men pile mountains of gold all over them.
It's like girls, I don't particularly find girls who pile on tons of make-up attractive... I'm attracted to natural beauty the most, and it's the same with churches. Symbolism I'm fine with, but when the symbols and the finery become more important than what is symbolised, it has to stop because otherwise it becomes idolatrous.
So I stand by my criticism of the Star Trek fan campaign to save Enterprise, all the more because I am prepared to stand with you in your criticism of where certain church establishments, are rich towards themselves, but poor towards God.

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