This is the view from the top of IKEA in Ashton Under Lyne. I always feel sightly unnerved there because they invert what I would assume to be a popular way of planning buildings by putting the car parks on the top floors and the shop on the lower, the levels becoming taller in height as one descends. I would put the heavy, low levels on the bottom personally, but then again I know nothing of building techniques. I find the process fascinating though, there is a Chinese restaurant in Manchester built in a cavernous hall underneath a fifteen storey car park, with slender pillars supporting the whole weight of the structure, contents and movement of the car park. Similarly in great cathedrals I love to follow the perceived weight of the structure through the supports, columns and buttresses. Once you imagine the weight of the roof, I find, the building design reveals itself by a process of wondering how that weight is supported. The enquiring mind can follow arches, corbels and variations on the golden rule of medieval masons right the way down from the uppermost tip of the clerestory arches past the stained glass and arcading, taking in carvings and roundels to the carpet tiles of the gift shop and wonder why they bothered.
As the picture above illustrates, though, it is worth bothering, if only because nobody else does. You can see the light stone of Saint Anne's Church in stark contrast to the poured concrete and modern brick of the surroundings. It is hard work conserving old buildings, but churches speak of an older covenant incarnated in the area, before new deals and government initiatives, the presence of God in a community, established there before the present community was even a twinkle in the town planners eye. The Archbishop of Canterbury, as is noted below, is urging us to pray more. I was tempted to leave a comment along the lines of 'I'll have to put that one past the PCC first', but that would be as out of character, as it would be anything else.
In conserving our old buildings we do truly make a bold statement to our local communities, that we are counter cultural in our preservation of that which belongs to God, we also create an ark of memories, I hope, for the local community. The only problem is getting them through the doors, which is one reason I am so keen on remodelling entrances and glazing doors as well as outdoor processions. The ABC is right though, sometimes we become bogged down in preservation and fund raising for its own sake. When was the last time you attended a buildings sub committee which began and ended in prayer? Church politics can get divorced from the sole point of the building and leave us with a beautiful museum.
In case you wondered what had happened to the 1970's group Abba, it would appear that they are canning herrings in a variety of sauces as well as providing squeezy tubes full of smoked cod roe for IKEA. I was in IKEA stocking up on candles for the church, they sell cheap ones which fit the sprung stocks perfectly as well as the little tea lights which slip into the red glass lamps at the shrines. Not quite Hayes and Finch, but at a hundred for two pounds fifty, not to be sneezed at either.