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Canterbury Cathedral AIBU to think something's wrong here?

(27 Posts)
Hatespiders Tue 16-Dec-14 12:37:03

Was watching a programme last night about Canterbury Cathedral. They'd applied for a Grant from some charitable body (may have been English Heritage) for 12 million pounds (!) to build a new visitor reception centre at the south gate of the cathedral. There was much rejoicing when they were informed their application had been successful. The documentary featured a homeless man sitting just outside. He was begging and seemed genuinely homeless and 'rough sleeping' but said he hoped it would be temporary and he'd find somewhere to live soon. He was pathetically grateful for contributions from passers-by. I have stood recently outside Norwich Cathedral in the ground just in front of their nice new 'Hostry' which also cost several million pounds. A very poorly old homeless lady sat on a bench with all her plastic bags beside her. We gave her some money, but it isn't the answer.
My point is, all these millions being spent on tarting up cathedrals when literally at the door sit people in dire distress. Is something wrong here?

Babycham1979 Tue 16-Dec-14 12:47:58

I read your post expecting you to be excoriating the Church of England for their cheek in bidding for grant funding from the taxpayer when they're one of the richest landowners in the UK. Still, I suppose it's part of the same point; the Church is bloody loaded. Why aren't they spending this money on a) poor people and b) their own visitor centres? Christian charity, my arse!

squoosh Tue 16-Dec-14 12:49:07

Yes the 'something wrong' is that the government can afford to do a lot more to help the homeless yet doesn't.

Homelessness is a disgrace in any developed country BUT cathedrals haven't caused it. The grant they received is part of a big pot of money set aside for the upkeep and renovation of historically important buildings. Personally I think it's money well spent.

It's not as though there is one huge well of money and the people running cathedrals/castles etc. are syphoning off money that would otherwise be spent on homeless charities.

Yes the government should certainly do a hell of a lot more to help the homeless but they can afford to do this and continue supporting the UK's historical buildings.

Mulderandskully Tue 16-Dec-14 12:50:23

Homelessness is very complex. Throwing money at it isn't necessarily the answer

NancyRaygun Tue 16-Dec-14 12:56:58

I completely see your point but agree with squoosh - the government could place more funds to helping homeless. The Cathedrals are separate.

I always think the same though when seeing the vast sums spend on historical buildings, the arts, opera, ballet etc etc - I think: there are food banks in the UK, children going cold and hungry and we as a society are spending millions on very exclusive cultural 'extras' that the vast vast majority of people have little interest in, and can't afford to enjoy. Something IS wrong.

Bowlersarm Tue 16-Dec-14 13:00:57

agree with squoosh, they're different issues.

Hatespiders Tue 16-Dec-14 13:12:05

Ah, but this wasn't 'renovation' it was a completely new build. And as a practising CofE Christian, I'm mindful of what Jesus might have thought, having read the Gospels many times.

I don't advocate 'throwing money' at the poor, but this large sum could have set up (in the name of Christian assistance) a hostel and a cafe, plus medical help and counselling etc all house in a special centre for those in need.

If one merely prefers to wait for 'the Government' to address these problems, and doesn't condone any kind of charitable aid, many many organisations would have to close and many needy folk would still be waiting.

The programme also showed some superb masonry restoration of the fabric of the cathedral, which I can see is necessary to prevent the whole thing deteriorating irrevocably. But this 12 million pounds just seemed a 'spend too far'.

squoosh Tue 16-Dec-14 13:16:33

'If one merely prefers to wait for 'the Government' to address these problems, and doesn't condone any kind of charitable aid, many many organisations would have to close and many needy folk would still be waiting.'

So what is your suggestion? That English Heritage donate their allocated funding to alleviate the plight of the homeless? Not sure that makes much sense.

OOAOML Tue 16-Dec-14 13:19:46

I'm not sure how much the various Heritage bodies get from government and how much from visitors, public appeals, shop profits etc - but as others have said these are very different issues and funding not spent on buildings would be very unlikely to be spent on homelessness. I've visited Canterbury and it isn't cheap - I assume they try to make money from visitors towards upkeep. People wouldn't necessarily make the link to give money to homelessness charities instead of visiting the cathedral. Presumably they have put a case in to whichever funding body it is showing how the new centre will contribute to ongoing revenue, getting more visitors etc.

AuntieStella Tue 16-Dec-14 13:21:49

The pot of money to repair and maintain buildings isn't the same pot as that which funds the actual activities of an organisation (in this case the church).

What community activities does the cathedral carry out in Canterbury? Either on the back of local go fundraising, or national programmes of the CofE?

Raia Tue 16-Dec-14 13:24:10

The bulk of the grant was for fixing the roof, not the visitors' centre. But I was also wondering why the C of E couldn't fund it, considering what a wealthy institution it is confused

DidoTheDodo Tue 16-Dec-14 13:26:20

if you watched the whole programme, Nick Papadopolous said that their earlier application for funding had been rejected because there was not enough community benefit in it. They amended this for the second application and were successful.

As squoosh says, not the same pot of money for both these needs.

PekeandPollicle Tue 16-Dec-14 13:27:19

English Heritage make their aims for grant funding clear on their website and take into account:

1) Whether there is a financial need for grant, including whether there is a lack of alternative public or charitable funding;

2) Whether the work or activity proposed is required within two years;

3) The scope for long-term viability of any activity or historic asset supported.

I suspect they agreed to fund the project to increase the long term viability of the cathedral.

Organisations cannot apply to English Heritage often so they have to be able to come up with their own funding streams. Some of this could probably be done by selling off property etc, but that isn't viable long term.

As Stella says, I expect the only a fairly small proportion of the money raised in collections will go to support the cathedral buildings.

It isn't an excuse for homelessness, but I don't think either Canterbury Cathedral or English Heritage have done anything wrong here.

BackOnlyBriefly Tue 16-Dec-14 13:28:03

It is the government's (aka the taxpayers) responsibility really and not down to the church. The church are under no obligation to be caring and charitable and they certainly don't have to give away all their wealth to the poor like Jesus suggested.

However we may take that into account when they demand special privileges.

Hatespiders Tue 16-Dec-14 13:40:19

'The church are under no obligation to be caring and charitable' . Eh?
But surely that is one of the most basic tenets of Christianity?? If by 'the church' one means the people in it (which is the usual interpretation of the word) one of its first responsibilities is charitable giving and care, on a personal level and as an organisation.
To be honest, I was amazed when our village church received a grant of a quarter of a million to repair the roof. Only about 10-12 people go on a Sunday. We have a village hall where services for a dozen people could take place easily. These old buildings, while historic and I suppose important landmarks, are a terrible drain on resources. I quite admire the Salvation Army, who seem to be more practically-minded and caring of the most deprived in our society.
It just all seems very far indeed from what one reads in the Gospels about the fundamental morality and ethos of being a Christian.

BackOnlyBriefly Tue 16-Dec-14 14:38:07

Well they are under no legal obligation. I do think if they claim to be following Jesus they should be more like him (or more like what he is claimed to have been).

TranquilityofSolitude Tue 16-Dec-14 14:46:00

As others have said, they're separate pots and cathedrals don't control how much goes into each pot.

Elsewhere in the programme there was a lot of focus on the work of food banks and the clergy's support of the homeless.

EdithWeston Tue 16-Dec-14 14:49:38

If you google 'Church of England' and 'homeless' you get pages of hits about national and local level initiatives they run or contribute too.

I have no idea if this is a good amount, or if they should be doing more. But it would be wrong to think the church is not active already in this area.

Roseformeplease Tue 16-Dec-14 14:50:41

How about this poem on the same topic?

Assisi by Norman McCaig

The dwarf with his hands on backwards
sat, slumped like a half-filled sack
on tiny twisted legs from which
sawdust might run,
outside the three tiers of churches built
in honour of St Francis, brother
of the poor, talker with birds, over whom
he had the advantage
of not being dead yet.

A priest explained
how clever it was of Giotto
to make his frescoes tell stories
that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness
of God and the suffering
of His Son. I understood
the explanation and
the cleverness.

A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly,
fluttered after him as he scattered
the grain of the Word. It was they who had passed
the ruined temple outside, whose eyes
wept pus, whose back was higher
than his head, whose lopsided mouth
said Grazie in a voice as sweet
as a child's when she speaks to her mother
or a bird's when it spoke
to St Francis.

chrome100 Tue 16-Dec-14 14:50:59

My friend is an artist and runs some kind of co-operative thing with other artists. They are always being awarded sums of money for what, quite frankly, is a massively wanky waste of time that no one bothers going to look at. It actually makes me angry that they get thousands of pounds to do interpretive dance or whatever shit they do when there are people struggling to feed themselves.

Yes, art is nice - but it is, as a previous poster said, an "extra" and one we can ill afford.

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 16-Dec-14 14:52:49

I do feel a bit odd about a visitor centre, I will admit.

But, one of sources of money this country has, is in heritage. We have a lot of historic buildings and all sorts of business (tourism, education) is attached to them. It is too simplistic to call them 'cultural extras'.

Mulderandskully Tue 16-Dec-14 15:07:58

Also, this sounds a bit cold but the heritage money is an investment- in an asset. There are all sorts of things you can do with assets to create more money. Using all spare money on homelessness doesn't really create anything (aside from potentially hostels being built but they're generally v poor investments anyway)

PinkOboe Tue 16-Dec-14 15:23:36

Most cathedrals are getting on for 1000 years old. To keep them safe, for visitors, users and future generations costs loads.

Heritage in this country accounts for a huge amount of tourism and stimulates local economies recent research detailing just how much

English Heritage is not a charity (yet) and wouldn�t be funding a project like this, that would be the Heritage Lottery Fund, a funding mechanism set up specifically to look after this country�s heritage.

Funding for heritage, which was already minute in comparison to other areas under the DCMS, museums / sport etc, has been cut year on year for the last decade. An interesting perspective on the imbalance from Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of EH.

Our future of our heritage, whether you recognise its value or not, is in a perilous state. A visitor centre will attract visitors, encourage them to spend more money, which will go directly towards the upkeep of, in this case, the cathedral, and will thus be less dependent on the tax payer .

PinkOboe Tue 16-Dec-14 15:57:43

if you want to know why this particular project was deemed worthy of receiving funding this explains

mummytime Tue 16-Dec-14 16:13:29

If you go to my local Cathedral any Sunday, you will see the collection baskets for the local food banks, there are annual sleep outs to raise money/awareness of homelessness, the last Bishop spent more time at the local prisons than doing services at the cathedral, lots of individuals and groups do a lot of work with homelessness and other disadvantaged groups. But it still has fund raising campaigns to keep the building going, and takes government money when it can get it.
The C of E has a lot of money, but a lot of this is to pay clergy pensions and salaries. It owns a lot of land, but often how this can be used, and whether it can be sold is strictly controlled. Churches are a focal point, and often provide the only gathering place in villages.

Without culture, what kind of a society would we have?

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