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The Bishop’s Portakabin

A few days ago I visited what is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful parish churches in England. I was horrified by what the philistines of the Church of England had done to its interior.

I won’t mention which church it was, for it was by no means the first church I had seen so aesthetically vandalised and I am criticising a mentality rather than any individuals.

The church was a fine example of the Perpendicular style. It hardly needs me to extol the exquisite proportions of the building, the beauty of the carving of choir stalls or of the stained glass windows that had miraculously survived the various waves of iconoclasm and vandalism that have overtaken this country. There were plentiful well-preserved tombs both mediaeval and Elizabethan. Yet the Church of England had seen fit to treat the interior as if it were no better or more special than a Nissen hut. The Soviets, with their Museums of Religion and theism, could hardly have done worse. A place of repose and serenity had been tuned into a visual nightmare to arouse the ire of anyone of the faintest aesthetic sensibility.

There were several stacks off modern red-seated, metalled-framed chairs piled in the nave; horrible, crudely-coloured notices had been posted everywhere; many dreadful modern cloth hangings, as horribly designed as they were badly executed, were suspended from every pillar. On every step had been affixed with sellotape a warning to mind the step, health and safety long since having replaced faith and hope in the doctrine of the C of E.
Worst of all was a partition erected in the north aisle that would not have been out of place at Stansted Airport, being of grey glass and stainless steel. Inside the partition was a kitchenette, no doubt to provide communicants with a nice cup of tea after services. It was worst because, unlike the notices, the hangings or the piles of chairs, it was intended as a permanent fixture, the twentieth or twenty-first century’s contribution to church architecture.

It is obvious that the Church of England ought to be destituted of its ecclesiastical buildings and compensated with Nissen huts and Portakabins which by now it would probably by now much prefer in any case for ideological reasons. As a firm believer in ecclesiastical hierarchy, I think a Bishop’s Portakabin ought to be slightly larger than a vicar’s, possibly with an indoor lavatory, and all Anglican services ought by law to take place Nissen huts.

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