As golf courses are to road builders, so church buildings are to conservationists.
Churches have been scattered all over Australia from the earliest settlement. Church buildings are therefore some of the oldest buildings in our nation and people have a romantic, sentimental attachment to them. Especially people who never go! As one of our ancient sandstone relics comes into view, the eyes of the heritage greeny fill not with dollar signs, but with “Interim Conservation Order”.
It is an evil thing that we are not allowed to use or develop our own property in a way that serves the ministry of the gospel—the very purpose for which our buildings were erected. That we must sit in uncomfortable, unsuitable buildings for the sake of the community that never come is hardly just or fair.
However, there is a double evil. Those responsible for restricting our development have no financial responsibility for the decision that they make. If they want to preserve old buildings, they should pay for it! If they do not want to pay for the preservation of our buildings, then let them buy our buildings so that we can develop somewhere else and they can preserve their own building. Why should the church become a society for the preservation of old buildings?
The absurdity of preserving Australian history reflects our unflagging kowtowing to our British and European forefathers. As a young nation, why should we preserve European buildings?! Why not express ourselves architectually by consistently destroying the buildings of Europe and building for the future, Besides, there is no old church building in Australia worth crossing the road to look at, when compared with the thousands of architectural masterpieces scattered across Europe.
The battle has been joined. We need a new architecture for church buildings. It comes in two forms and will undoubtably revolutionise the whole character of future ecclesiastical edifices.
The first model is The Crummy Building. We must build churches that either cannot be preserved (ones that fall down every thirty to forty years) or that no-one will want to preserve (ones sufficiently cheap and shoddy to deter the aesthetic antiquarian.
This scheme does have some built-in disadvantages, as it were. It will give us a great cost in forty years to build again, but then again it will reduce our costs in building now. And it will give us the flexibility in forty years time to build a new building adapted to the needs of then.
The alternative model is The Everchanging Building. This a building which, by its very nature, has to be changed every few years—a design that incorporates the expectation of constant change. Thus, in the future, when people wish to preserve it, they will have to preserve its capacity for continued change.
(In fact, it could be reasonably argued that the preservation of our present buildings should involve this idea of preservation of change, for there are very few of our socalled old buildings that have continued unchanged since their day of erection.)
We must take this radical action for the sake of our grand children, to free them, by our forethought, from the rules and regulations of a pagan society.
And wonders may happen. When the news gets out that we are purposely designing crummy church buildings, the antiquariana, in their horror, may decide to be more lenient with us, so that they do not have to tolerate our planned eye sores.