I have just returned from a trip to Christchurch, where I grew up. I went into the city and walked all the way around the red zone, which is cordoned off after the earthquakes.What I expected to see was a sad, and empty place. Yes, it was empty, and strangely silent, with cranes ‘deconstructing’ several buildings, like vultures on a corpse.
But what I also saw, in the areas that used to be in the red zone, but are now open, was a city that is alive, full of energy, with resurrection pulsing through its veins. There are pop-up stores, shops in containers, re-positionable buildings all trading as designer shops and cafes, with flower planters decorating the streets and precincts. There has been care taken to make the city an interesting and pleasant place to shop, and actually I think the old Cashel Mall is better now than it ever was!
In the suburbs too there are flowers, in planters, and empty sites have been strewn with wildflowers. Sides of remaining buildings, and containers, have been decorated with murals, and there’s a sense that nothing can keep this city down!
I saw resurrection everywhere, life everywhere, hope everywhere. There is a tremendous spirit of life there.
In the red-zone I saw the old cathedral, once the ‘icon’ of Christchurch, now a sad and strangely small building, no longer the soaring church where we had our school carol services. It doesn’t feel like place of worship anymore, but only home for the odd pigeon flying in to nest. It reminded me of a loved relative, still attached to life-support ventilators, where no one has had the courage to switch off the power and let it die a dignified death.
There will be a new opportunity for the Cathedral to be built, in a way that will suit worshiping and gathering communities in the future, but rather than patching up the old dear in the ICU, let’s look forward to God’s new vision for the church in Christchurch, that is, the people who worship God in Christchurch, to find new ways to do that.