by ROWENA OREJANA
Beautiful traditional churches are expected in Christchurch as the diocese gears towards rebuilding next year some churches destroyed by the 2011 earthquake.
Bishop’s Pastoral Office director Mike Stopforth said the diocese is preparing for a number of churches to be built. “We’ve got three churches currently active being planned. We have another one in the wings that will come behind that,” he said.
To this end, Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones released a building resource to help parishes on the architecture of the new churches to be rebuilt.
In the four-page pamphlet entitled “The House of God”, Bishop Jones states, “Generally, modernist styles have not served the liturgy well. In building a new church, parishes should seek architects capable of using traditional styles (e.g., Gothic — Darfield; Classical
Revival — the cathedral) but not simply replicating a particular church.”
The bishop also quotes the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “The character and beauty of the church should foster devotion and show forth the holiness of the liturgical mysteries.”
Mr Stopforth said the resource is not directive but is a guide. “It upholds the tradition of the Church through its understanding of what the church should be like. So there’s no directive from the bishop about what style of church should be built,” he said. He emphasised
that Christchurch’s situation is not typical.
“Normally, one parish would make a proposal and it’ll build a church. Because we are in a post earthquake environment, the scale of the situation is significant,” he said. “We’ve got a number of churches that need repairing, so we need to maximise our resources.
There’s an opportunity for us in the diocese to do things well. That’s why we want to build churches that are beautiful and worthy of worship.”
Mr Stopforth said the last church built in Christchurch is St Peter and Paul’s Church in Halswell, 20 years ago.
After the earthquake, eight churches were demolished. Ten churches in the city and four outside the city have been closed and are not used. In those areas, Mr Stopforth explained, churchgoers use either the parish centres or school halls for Sunday Masses. One parish shares a church with Anglicans while another uses the community hall of St John’s Ambulance.
“Every Sunday, it has to be set up for church and then it reverts back to a school hall. It’s definitely not an ideal. People get sick of it,” he said. “But we’re at a stage now when we are preparing for rebuilding, which is exciting.”
Now, he said, parishes are developing a brief for the architect who will design their church. No architect has been selected yet and Mr Stopforth said they would prefer architects who have a track record of building Catholic churches and have an understanding of the theology that underpins those structures.
“That architect’s brief will have to be approved by the bishop. And then architects can be engaged to look at building a church. Getting the right architect is going to be very important,” he said.
He said there has been a mixed response to the resource, although many have been positive. “Some have made mention that they appreciate the fact of people want traditional churches, churches that look like churches,” he said.
The bishop last year created a strategic committee to look at which church would be reinstated or repaired and which would not.
“The reality is, we are not going to reinstate all our churches a.) because the need is not there, and b.) because there is not enough money. Some of those things have been worked through, but in the meantime, architects briefs are being prepared,” he said.
by ROWENA OREJANA