Sunday, 8 January 2012

I probably shouldn't write this

But I'm going to do so anyway. It is possible that what I am about to write will cause offence in some quarters or to some people. I don't see why it should, but these days it seems ridiculously easy for people to take offence just because somebody disagrees with their religious views or convictions and says what they think. That is what I am about to do. If my words cause offence, I apologise. No offence is intended and I fully respect your right to hold views different from mine and to express your opinions both verbally and in written form.

I will start with a hypothetical situation. There is a very old building in town, possibly dating from Tudor times, a building which you admire greatly, a building you would wish to see preserved. Unfortunately, this building is owned and occupied by a right wing political organisation, a very right wing organisation. So far to the right that its policies are repugnant to you and most other people. This organisation doesn't have the funds to maintain the old building which is falling into disrepair. An appeal is made for funds to effect essential repairs to the building. You would be happy to contribute towards the cost of those repairs but are not happy that some of any money you donate might be used for political purposes and, in any case, you have no wish to provide this repugnant organisation with a headquarters building. What do you do? Do you make a donation so that the building can be preserved, hoping that it will become the property of somebody else or a different organisation in the near future? Or do you accept the risk of the building falling down because you don't want to risk giving a penny to that political party?

There is, of course, no wrong answer to those questions, just as there is no right one either. Nor is there a right or a wrong answer to the particular problem with which I have been wrestling over the past few days. All the same, I will be interested to hear what my readers have to say about it.

My family moved to Hove almost 55 years ago and almost immediately started worshipping at St Helen's church in Hangleton. This is the oldest building in the city of Brighton & Hove, parts of it being more than 900 years old. It is a beautiful example of an old church which, thankfully, escaped restoration in Victorian times. But the congregation is too small to be able to maintain the building and the diocese can no longer contribute towards the shortfall of some £600 a week. The church is faced with closure unless more money can be found.

My parents attended St Helen's until the end of their lives and my mother's ashes are buried in the churchyard. I am loathe to see the church closed. But I became aware that St Helen's, like so many other C of E churches, was lurching to the right and becoming more and more Roman. the 'Hail, Mary' was a feature of Sunday services and pilgrimages were organised to Walsingham. This is where my problem arises - and where I may cause offence. I do not hold with the Roman Catholic version of Christianity and would not want to contribute towards the salary of the clergy at the church because of the Catholic leanings. Any contribution I would make would be intended solely for the upkeep of the church building. But that is not possible as any donation would go into the general fund of the parish.

Another factor in the problem is that the church is a listed building, Grade II*. This, presumably, means that the owner is obliged to maintain it in status quo, so there is no danger of it being left to rot. But what if the owner can't afford to maintain the building?

I think I will probably end up by making a regular contribution just to ensure the church stays open. It is a beautiful building as you can see from these photographs.


Anonymous said...

Not an easy decision to make.

At the risk of offending you, I wouldn't give them a penny and would give it to the Salvation Army instead.

They're the only religious body that I know of who does actually feed and clothe those in need and who open their doors to the homeless on freezing nights.

They put their money where their mouth is.

The C of E is extremely wealthy, I wouldn't lose any sleep over them being unable to pay for the upkeep of the building.


Stephen Hayes said...

I agree with SP. I would not give them money because they wouldn't use it to preserve this building but would spend it on causes you disagree with. Place your charity elsewhere. There are more than enough worthier causes in need of help.