I hadn't seen it before and walking into the filling nave I was struck by two things: the extraordinary quality of light inside the building and the sense that it was what it proclaimed itself to be: transitional. The huge tan tubes out of which it is constructed are covered by translucent corrugated plastic sheeting. Diffuse, soft light flows down around the tubes and, mixing with that from the huge multicoloured rear window, swamps the place. Across the front are wide glass panels, allowing anyone passing to see anything and everything that is going on inside. It also allows those inside to look back and out at the ruins of the beloved city. It feels airy and spacious though it is not actually all that big. Behind quite temporary looking curtains and forming the lower parts of the walls are shipping containers turned into offices, vestries and a kitchen. They work fine but they are quite cramped and do look very transitional indeed. There is a smallish stage at the front on which were chairs and choir stalls and a pulpit, made ingeniously from cardboard tubes, sitting a little incongruously with one or two pieces from the old cathedral. It is beautiful. It is temporary.
I can see why the building has already become something of an icon in Christchurch. It does exactly capture the current state of the city, where ingenuity and tradition and aesthetic sense are beginning to build a stylish new metropolis out of the ruins of the old. It is a sign of what can be done, and a pointer to what shall be.
The choice of Lynda as dean of this place is inspired. With her intelligence and her deeply grounded spirituality, with her humour and music and street savvy she is someone that others can respect and listen to. As this building is becoming a sign around which the city can build its hopes, so Lynda is the leader around whom the Cathedral congregation can build their mission to show Jesus to the city.
It was a great service and I was humbled and honoured to be part of it. The liturgy managed that delicate balance between dignity and relaxed warmth, the Cathedral choir sang well, I preached to an attentive congregation, and there was a pervading sense of optimism and energy and joy which this transitional space held and contributed to. The old Cathedral which I knew and loved so well perfectly embodied the hopes of the Canterbury settlers and the city they founded. This cathedral perfectly captures the present heart of Christchurch and gives me hope that the cathedral which will follow it will do the same - spectacularly - for the phoenix city now in the early stages of rising.