Sunday, February 27, 2011

Enduring Acts of God

In the aftermath of earthquakes, what gets to me are the pictures of collapsed cathedrals. I define "gets to me" as being initially stunned, then haunted, then fixated. A year has passed and I can easily conjure up the image of Notre Dame (Roman Catholic) Cathedral of Port-au-Prince.

Now scenes of rubble around Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals in Christchurch, New Zealand are getting to me. I've been digging deeper into my fascination with these images of earthquake damage. It has not escaped my notice that these glorious exemplars of human art and engineering have been trashed by what are commonly known as "acts of God."

I love cathedrals, have felt my soul soothed and spirit lifted by simply walking through their much-larger-than-life portals. So imagine my surprise to find myself thinking that the physical destruction of church buildings albeit sad, might not be such a bad thing. Human life is, after all, more valuable than property, I would say this is especially true and worth remembering when it comes to church and faith.

This past week, I've observed myself wondering how people of faith might be inspired to come together as community when grandiose buildings become uninhabitable. The structural damage to these cathedrals has prompted me to consider, once again, what it means to be church.

Image: Notre Dame Cathedral, Port-au-Prince, Haiti


  1. Jews, as you know, have lots of experience with destruction of Temples. Some are meant to be rebuilt, and maybe some are not?

  2. Sharon:
    An earlier draft of this post had references to both the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem as well as commentary about what became possible for Jews as a result of both Temples being destroyed (e.g., chauvurah, Rabbinic Judaism). But it was getting a bit bulky for a blog post so I didn't get into it. You're right...of course!

  3. How strange because I have spent the last few hours thinking on the same thing. I was looking at the gospel for Sunday which happens to be the one about building your house on a rock and it struck me as ironic that the cathedrals in NZ and Haiti were built on rock but still didn't withstand the force of the earthquake. This, combined with last Sunday's gospel about the birds of the air and the decline of church attendance started me to think does God even need a house these days ? Like you I find some cathedrals amazingly spiritual. I am always stuck with the image of Francis building his little church brick by brick and then visiting the Vatican -such a contrast and yet both visions have meaning and value. It's also moving to read what the people of NZ say about the value and meaning of the cathedral in their lives.


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