In Wellington archdiocese, all of the parishes are looking at the earthquake worthiness of their buildings. Our parish has been told that both churches are suspect; we’re going for a fuller assessment, but it seems at least possible that we won’t be able to afford to bring them up to code. I’ve heard that 80% of parishes are in the same boat – probably New Zealand-wide, not just in Wellington.
The bad news is that we might need to condemn 80% of our churches. The good news is that we have a great opportunity to work together to provide new churches for our parishes.
The Church of Latter Day Saints – for their buildings all over the world – uses a single architecturally designed plan, kitset components, and volunteer labour. Their churches are instantly recognisable, and are fully paid for at the time of erection – both very desirable goals.
The New Zealand bishops could approach a kitset home/barn manufacturer and ask them to design and produce three sizes of church buildings – small, medium, and large. These building could be made to look like a church with the addition of a tower and cross attached to the building or separate. Indeed, when I say ‘look like a church’, we could get away from the Northern European church design mindset and create something that expressed the same trancendent values in a Kiwi idiom.
The kitset manufacturers would develop the architectural drawings, ensure that the buildings met code, and so on. They would also use their current process to develop building instructions to go with the kitset parts.
A bulk purchase would allow maximum discounts, and the bishops are in a position to organise such value.
Each parish that needs to replace a church could then decide what size church they need, and what additions to include (for example, a bell tower; a lean-to porch; a kitchen annex etc) to customise the building for that particular parish and its needs. They could also decide whether to hire a builder, and if so whether that builder will erect the kitset or simply supervise volunteer labour. Each parish would need to organise its own consents and base, and any engineering or construction required for the base.
Later, we might like to commit the money we save on construction to buying a church kitset for an African parish, or sending them to places that have been hit by natural disasters.