11 Oct 2010
A significant number of Canterbury’s oldest, most iconic and best-loved Anglican churches are among the buildings most seriously damaged by the 7.1 earthquake that hit our diocese on the 4th of September. But amidst the debris it was the people and communities who really pulled together.
Assessment of Anglican buildings since the earthquake struck show damage ranging from minor surface cracks to collapsed walls and bell towers that have fallen through the roof. Old masonry and brick buildings – constructed before the 1931 Napier quake ushered in changes in building codes – were hardest hit by the quake and aftershocks. The church buildings worst hit were St John's Hororata, St Cuthbert’s Governors Bay, Holy Innocent Mt Peel, and St John's Latimer Square. Serious damage was also sustained at St Luke’s Christchurch, Holy Trinity Avonside, St Mary’s Merivale, Holy Trinity Lyttelton, St John’s Okains Bay and St Peter's Upper Riccarton. The ChristChurch Cathedral held up pretty well thanks to its multi-million dollar strengthening project undertaken a few years ago – largely financed by the Christchurch ratepayers – sustaining minor damage.
But one building didn’t fare so well. The historic chapel at Christchurch’s Churchill Courts aged care complex was hastily deconsecrated yesterday as a demolition crew waited to tear down its busted and dangerously unstable walls. The chapel had been a locus for faith and worship for more than 100 years. In the beginning, it was built to serve St Saviour’s orphanage. The orphanage has long gone, but the chapel found a new life when the Churchill Courts complex was built around it.
Bishop Victoria Matthews had almost no warning that the chapel had to be substantially demolished by nightfall. So instead of wearing her episcopal robes as she pronounced the final, formal, poignant prayer of deconsecration, she was wearing a yellow hard hat and a raincoat. As the excavator waited, all the religious fittings – including robes, chalices and patens, altar rail and various commemorative plaques – were hastily taken from the chapel. The Bishop promised the residents that, although their chapel was lost, their spiritual and worship needs would continue to be met.
The Church Property Trustees, the body that oversees Anglican property in the Diocese of Christchurch, have had engineers making other buildings as safe as possible and ensuring any heritage items, such as protected stained glass windows, are safe. “We have then secured and weatherproofed the building and are now pausing to take a deep breath before we determine the right approach going forward into the recovery and rebuilding phase,” says Building and Property Committee chairperson Jacqui Hanafin.
As many of the Anglican churches that have been damaged are protected as heritage buildings, the process of repair will require the expertise and support of a number of different groups in the community. The full costs of repair are, at this stage, unknown, however the insurance alone will not cover the full costs of rebuilding. “Nothing is going to be decided overnight, and at this stage we do not foresee any buildings requiring demolition. There has been a very strong and concerned voice coming not only from the parishioners but the local communities – which has shown us just how important these buildings are in the wider community,” she says.
However, Bishop Victoria reminds us that our real concern as the church is much more than looking after buildings. “As we look towards the work that needs doing, we wish to honour the faithful commitment of those who worked so hard to build these beautiful places of worship, while remembering the church is primarily about people, not just bricks and mortar.” In line with that, hundreds of “Feeling shaken? Open to talk or pray” signs went out to parishes to help establish local churches as open spaces for people to find support after a tough week. Now it’s up to parishes to ensure the connections made with the local community due to the earthquake are fostered, rather than returning to business as usual.
While the opening Synod service on Friday went as planned, the Saturday’s Synod was postponed due to the earthquake. After hearing the Bishop’s charge from the service a young parishioner put two and two together and sent out this text message: “Breaking news: The Bishop prays up a storm in preparation for Synod! Watch this space – Christchurch is getting shaken up!” A new date for Synod has been scheduled for the 30th of October.
For details on how to donate towards the Earthquake Rebuilding Fund, contact Liz Clarke on 363 0903.
A gallery of damaged Anglican churches in the diocese can be viewed here.
The following pastoral letter from Bishop Victoria concerning the earthquake was read in all churches in the Diocese of Christchurch on Sunday the 12th of September.
A week ago we were awakened in the middle of the night by a violent earthquake that has continued to disrupt our lives. Further aftershock activity is expected. Several areas were devastated and I am deeply grateful to the people in the parishes of places such as Kaiapoi, Linwood and Shirley who have reached out and been present to the people most affected in terms of loss of homes and businesses. Many other parishes have reacted swiftly to be present to the psychological and spiritual trauma of those who have live in fear and uncertainty. I am deeply grateful to those who have taken people into their homes or who have made themselves available to listen, talk and pray with those in the larger community. All of us are deeply thankful for the civic leaders and those in the emergency response teams who have worked night and day to make our communities safe, and who have restored services to our homes. My heart goes out to those who have lost church, hall or vicarage. We are here to help you rebuild and renew your presence in the community.
However this is only the beginning. This past week was only the start of a long term, multi- pronged response to what has changed our lives significantly. We must not forget those who have lost their homes, businesses and work due to the earthquake. Even if our own lives have some elements of what passes for normal, we must continue to be deeply aware of those who are still in desperate circumstances. Please form a group to organize ongoing response to the quake. Parish and ecumenical responses should include prayer and practical assistance. Even after one week many of the key people are exhausted and in need of relief and support. It should be possible for every parish and or community group to ease the burden of those who are working at the coal-face. Elderly and young people who were evacuated from their homes will not make an easy stress free transition to new accommodation. Those who chose to leave town to stay with friends and family will experience trauma when they return home and witness what has happened to their neighbourhood in terms of demolition and further damage. We must not underestimate the emotional and psychological stress. Once again a non-anxious presence and a strong faith will communicate calm and confidence in such upheaval and distress. As you are aware in 1 Kings 19, God neither speaks nor is present in the earthquake, hurricane or fire but only in the still small voice.
Above all let us proclaim a message of gratitude and hope in the midst of the disorientation and dismay. I say gratitude because we have witnessed a miracle in Canterbury. The miracle is that in the midst of huge devastation, there is no loss of human life. Praise God.
I say hope because this crisis holds within it the potential for an even better community in which all are truly cared for, and all share a faith in God’s love and mercy. This hope becomes our reality when we listen to God’s continual invitation to form community. Central to our lives as Christians are the Gospel teachings that God became one of us in the person of Jesus; and that the three-fold personhood of God: Father, Son and Spirit, shows that God’s Divine Being speaks of community. Therefore let our response to this present disaster be the building of caring and compassionate communities in which no one is forgotten or excluded.
To the whole Diocese, thank you for your ministry of being Christ’s hands and feet, heart and voice; and through which God’s love is experienced.
Let us go forward in gratitude and hope.
“Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”
Bishop of Christchurch
On behalf of all the people of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, we write to convey our heartfelt thoughts and prayers for all those affected by the earthquake near and in Christchurch on Saturday morning. We thank God that no-one has died, although there has been a range of injuries. Many buildings, including a significant number of churches, will need major repairs. We know that many are praying for the Diocese of Christchurch, the Hui Amorangi O Te Wai Pounamu and the city as a whole as they recover from the shock. These prayers will continue as we hold our brothers and sisters in daily intercession. We also thank God that Christchurch Cathedral is unscathed.
With our love in Christ
++David, ++Brown and ++Winston
On behalf of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa, I write to offer our thoughts and prayers for you and the people of the Diocese of ChristChurch in the aftermath of the enormous earthquake which struck the South Island on 4th September.
It is miraculous that there was no loss of life in ChristChurch and for that we give thanks to God. Having visited Haiti just two months after its massively destructive earthquake and having seen the devastation there, I understand more fully the incredible power of nature.
I have read that the building codes of your area played a great role in saving lives and preventing injuries. Hopefully many other earthquake prone areas will learn from your experience.
Your recent pastoral letter was a wonderful message of encouragement and hope and I am certain your presence has given the people of ChristChurch a renewed sense of strength to move ahead.
I also look forward to seeing you later this year at the IASCUFO meeting in Cape Town.
Yours in the service of Christ,
++Thabo Cecil Makgoba
The property insurers for the diocese, Asvar, has commissioned Godfrey’s as loss adjusters to initially drive past every CPT property to assess any damage. If you have any urgent enquiries send a message to CPT property manager Liz Clarke on firstname.lastname@example.org. A newsletter update from CPT regarding parish property and the earthquake can be downloaded from here.
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