Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Church going, going, gone

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
Philip Larkin  Church Going

Nothing is permanent and certainly not churches. For 700 years or so this place has been added to, altered, adapted, survived sieges and world wars, generally kept standing by running repairs and renovations. Each generation adding its own particular contribution to its rich tapestry so that now it is the largest parish church in the country with some of the finest medieval architecture. So what could today's generation add to this jewel of a building? Surely with all the wealth, skills and cultural knowledge that abound in this city a sympathatic way could be found to maintain the fabric and upkeep of this place and pay the bills at least. Well perhaps but, as you might have guessed by now, that is not going to happen.
It was announced last week, to much fanfare and general acclaim (you will gather this did not include me) that, after employing 'marketing specialists' the vicar intends to go into the cafeteria trade! Yup he intends to take out the carved wooden pews from the nave and instal a 'tasteful' , that is to say, massive, glass screen behind which customers can consume their pannetones and steaming weak lattes while taking in the gothic ambience. There are to be banquets and concerts and who knows what other joyous goings-on in the space so created. 
I know, I know, you're asking where will the kitchens and lavatories and so on be; no problem, a glass and metalwork lean-to (in a tasteful gothic style, of course) will be plugged onto the south side and the medieval brickwork be damned. Outside, the church boundary wall and that tree on the right are to be removed, the churchyard in effect erased and turned into an alfresco coffee shop complete with fountains where you can sip your espresso in the company of the dead that lie in such abundance just under the paving stones. This is all part of a cooperation with the Council to create what is now fashionably called a 'piazza-style' space .... and it should be particularly enjoyable during the months November through April as these are by far the best for sitting around in the fresh air.
Oh there's more, if you can stand it, (and stand you must for there will be no pews) away from the diners, at the holy end as it were, interactive displays are planned to tell the story of the place. And don't worry we are told there will still be place for worship that is if God hasn't left the building.
The vicar says he already has donations of £1.5 million tucked away for this project and requires only another £3 million. It seems that leaving a lasting contribution to the culture of this city does not come cheap. And to cap it all the Archbishop, not wishing to be left out of the party, has decided to promote the church up to a Minster: Hull Minster. The Minster CafĂ©. How does that sound? Not remotely like a gimmick... (I'd prefer Ye Olde Boneyard Bistro myself but that's just me being me.)
And me being me would question whether the Church of England, is a fit and properly responsible organisation to leave in charge of this country's cultural heritage or at the least churchy bits. Maybe it should be moved out of these places all together and professionals put in charge. Now there's a thought; evict the C of E from its churches.
I have little doubt that should planning permission for this proposal be sought then the Council, believing, as so many do, that culture is just another opportunity to drink coffee, will grant it. That does make this any the less a tacky, crass and short sighted act of vandalism. And after all this I forgot to mention it's a Grade 1 listed building but that seems to count for so little these days. 


  1. Tacky, crass, and short sighted seem to be an understatement in this case.

    It's like calling Lake Superior a pond.

  2. I'm not religious so I don't have an opinion about the C of E, etc. I worship great architecture, though, and would hate to see damage done to this or any fine cathedral.