St John's Anglican Cathedral

St John's Anglican Cathedral
The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. John's, Antigua, West Indies

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slow going

It has been one of the wettest years we have had in a long time.  This month was particularly wet.  As a result the roof that we thought we would have on for Christmas is not.  The Dean says that God's perfect plan is being worked out somewhere for someone and so we should thank God for the rain.  But that is a spiritual maturity that I am yet to reach.  So I like many of God's children, am a little impatient right now but what can we do?  The skies have been relatively clear these past few days.  Here's hoping that it will last into the New Year when work resumes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Restore! Renew! Revive!

The Year of Restoration was launched today with a moving service.  It was orginally to be held on the lawn of the Deanery but our Heavenly Father wanted us closer together and herded us inside the Cultural Centre through the use of some early morning showers.  All the Parish Churches were there, Bethel, Good Shepherd, St. Andrew, St. Anthony, St. James and of course St. John. 

Restore! Renew! Revive!
The Gospel reading  (Luke 15: 13-32), the parable of the prodigal son and his brother was touching and the Bishop's sermon was laced with metaphors.  My favourite of which was one he borrowed from Bishop Desmond Tutu.  The church is much like an ochestra with each member playing his or her part.  Sometimes there is a member holding a triangle whose only part is to strike it once in the entire piece they are playing.  Yet if that one "ping" is not heard during that piece, that piece is incomplete.  This restoration of the church building and the church the body of Christ is greater than any of us can imagine.  Whatever part we play at whatever time, we must realise that like that triangle player we have a valuable and necessary part to play.

While this is the Year of Restoration, the restoration of the church building and the church the body of Christ will take years.  The latter the rest of our lives.  We must stay committed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

We Walk by Faith.....

 and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
 Fitting words to live by from blessed St. Paul.  They ring very true with this Restoration. 

Here is our progress to date.  As you will see with the last picture, the first kingposts are up.  Rafters will start going up next week.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

East Gable Wall Part II

Great News!!!  The engineers have figured out a way to replace the beams without us having to demolish the wall.  The Dean is so relieved.  So am I.

There are two sets of beam trusses that are supporting the stones in that wall.  The wall will be propped up and then one wooden beam truss will be removed and replaced with a reinforced concrete beam.  Once that beam can support the weight of the stones then the other will be removed and replaced.  Work will begin shortly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Roof Trusses

Cross beams erected over south balcony
Add caption
Flat truss erected over north balcony
Twin towers
Post and beam structure viewed looking through the balcony floor into the foundations

Friday, September 23, 2011

Restoration and Recession

Restorations are expensive, time consuming, risky and at times contentious projects.  And that is in the best of times.  What does one say in these times?   The times of, let's say it,  "The Global Economic Recession."

Why oh why Father did you choose this time to call us to restore your holy temple? It feels unfair at times.  Our Faith is being tested.  I have called this Restoration a sermon in a previous post.  I now see it as even more.  I now see it also as being a metaphor for our current lives.

The Cathedral these days is a far cry from its former glory.  No longer is it the awe inspiring building, the ship of souls my sister called it, the beautiful place where Psalms were chanted, sermons delivered and the Gospel proclaimed.  It is now an unsightly, messy and slightly dangerous construction site.  A place where some rotten pieces of wood have been replaced but we are waiting to install a great many more new pieces.  Our shipments have been delayed by hurricanes and tropical storms that have mercifully missed us.  We have a little less than half the roof on and will be starting the work on the the rest at the peak of the hurricane season.

The Cathedral looks battered and bruised and the feeling you get sometimes when you stand inside is, will it ever come back?
The Sanctuary before

The Sanctuary now

But aren't our lives much like that?  Weren't we just a few scant years ago, paying our bills, planning vacations and enjoying a few luxuries.  We all wanted more and while there was suffering and terror in the world, we were confident about our future.  Now how are we doing?  Cost of living is up.  Gasoline prices have gone through the roof.  Businesses are closing.  More and more people are out of work.  House foreclosures are spreading like a virus and car repo men are very, very busy.  And the news around the world is bleak.  The governments of major countries are reporting financial crises that threaten to affect the entire world. 

Our lives look battered and bruised and the feeling you get sometimes when you look at it is, will it ever come back?

The scariest notion for me about these two scenarios is, are our darkest days behind us?  I have been through a few hurricanes and the hardest thing to deal with while you are in the middle of the storm is wondering if the worst of the storm has come.  As the storm rages, and even as you survive its ravages, you cannot help but wonder, how much more you can endure. Are you just seconds from a catastrophe.  And the truth is, until the winds start to ever so slowly abate, until the timbers break and the roof peels away like the top of a sardine can, you will never ever know.  But when you look back and you look down you will see you made it through, you will see "one set of footprints in the sand" and you will know who carried you through.

I dream,  I hope, I believe and I know that one day this restoration will be over.  The awe inspiring glory of the Cathedral will come back.  Sermons will be preached, Psalms will be chanted and the Gospel will be proclaimed.  Economies will recover, new businesses will open, people will return to work and we will start looking forward to our future.  We will make it through and we will look down and see one set of footprints in the sand and we will know who carried us through.  Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cathedral Souvenir Gift Shop

The Cathedral Souvenir Gift Shop was blessed and opened today.  This shop will assist us in generating funds for the Restoration.

The Site
Ground Breaking
Constructiono Underway
Gift Shop Completed
Inside the Shop
Inside the Shop 2

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The Saddest of Days
What a day Sunday was.  The 10th aniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  A tradegy of epic proportions.  The many memorials I watched were heartwrenching.  Ten years later and there is no diminishing of the pain, the loss and the grief.  However the day ended for me on a high note.  I watched the Science Channel's "The Rising."  I was uplifted by the efforts and progress that have been made at Ground Zero. 

Ground Zero is fast losing that name.  That name implies a scene of catastrophic destruction.  And it once was but a bold and ambitious plan has been in motion for years now.  The two towers will be replaced with four.  A memorial and museum will be constructed as well as a massive transit hub.  This place where so many died and were obliterated is now becoming a placed where many can find closure and peace and look to a brighter future.

Out of the pit of death and destruction that was once Ground Zero, a set of new edifices rise.  They bring peace and closure to the past and scream at our enemies that we are still here, still standing.  It reminds me of the scene from Antwone Fisher when he confronted his evil foster mother.  "It don't matter what you tried to do, you couldn't destroy me! I'm still standing! I'm still strong! And I always will be."

I am drawn to this Rising because it evokes a similar emotion within me as does this restoration project. These sacred and special places reduced to a shadow of what they once were.  Yet we are inspired to rebuild and create special meeting places for the living to gather, reflect and ponder the deeper meanings of life.  A place to hope for a brighter future.  I do not presume to suggest that the Cathedral is on the same emotional level as Ground Zero.  But I am unusually moved by the rebuilding efforts there and it fuels my zeal for what I am doing. 

The kinship of these two places lies in the human spirit's desire to rise.  We lift our eyes up, we keep our spirits high and we have high aspirations.  It is fitting that from the depths of our greatest tragedies we will endeavour to rise to a new and better future.  This, I believe,  is not a coincidence.  Our Lord and Saviour rose from death and went to heaven to prepare a place there for us.  I think we are following this path.

I dedicate this post to the glory of God and in heartfelt sympathy to families and friends of those who died on this tragic day.  May the souls of the departed rest in peace and rise victoriously in glory.
An artistic impression of the New World Trade Center

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Unusual Sight

The majority of the Cathedral has been without a roof for some time now.  We are patiently waiting for the arrival of our lumber from Texas.  Why Texas?  Because they were the only saw mill that could provide us with the size of beams that we require.  And while our Heavenly Father has spared us from nature's wrath, Irene was a weak tropical storm when it reached us, our shipping schedules have been severly affected.  The latest news is that after dodging the rough seas caused by the passage of these tropical distrubances, the ship ran aground in Tortola, creating yet another delay of three or four days.  But we would rather the lumber be late than at the bottom of the sea. 

In the meantime I have had to be patient with congregation members who are disturbed by the daily sight of their roofless Cathedral.  To the untrained eye all might appear to be well but a quick glance throught the windows shows what is not there.

Friday, July 22, 2011

East Gable Wall

We are going to have to restore the East gable wall.  This wall sits directly over the sanctuary.

East Gable Wall above the Sanctuary
The inner face of this wall is lined with concrete.  This is probably work from a previous restoration.  However the stones are supported by a wooden beam that is sagging.
Timber Beam Supporting the Wall Stones over the Sanctuary

Sagging Beam
Since there is no way to replace the beam and still support the stones above, this wall will also have to be dismantled.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Raisin In The Sun

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
~ Langston Hughes
It has been awhile since I last posted anything on the spirit of this Restoration (What does the restoration mean to you? ).  The motivation behind this Restoration is extremely important.  Behind the technical decisons, material procurement and the execution of construction tasks, lies the need for funds to purchase these goods and services.  It is impossible to have successful fund raising without the necessary motivation.  Especially in these recessionary times. 

I am moved to write this post because I read an article published at Caribarena, a newsportal.  The article,Students Look Back In Time, was written by some students and speaks to the sad fact that far too many historical buildings around St. John's have not been restored and have in fact been demolished.  What caught my eye in the comments posted by readers of the article was one made by one person who stated,

"They (some of the historical buildings and sites) were constructed and owned by the oppressors of our ancestors, who tortured, abused and treated them in the most inhumane of ways. As far as I am concerned, I want any vestige of these monsters removed from my country. This is our country now and we need to build our own history and forever rid ourselves of that of the British. Then we will have something we can proudly call our own, and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can write articles like this about the buildings we, their kin not their oppressors, built."

I have a gut feeling that this sentiment exists in the conscious and subconscious minds of many Antiguans.  And while the author of the comment above was making it directly about a barracoon (slave holding quarters) that the students found in St. John's, his or her disgust was extended to all things British.  I wondered, could sentiments like this be obstacles to the Restoration of the Cathedral?

This brings me to the title of this post.  We the descendants of a slave holding society have a number of issues to resolve.  Chiefly how do we regard our history?  The truth is that considering the fact that just as much British "blood" flows in our veins as African "blood," we cannot escape the fact that we cannot discard one for the other.  We speak a British language, model our government systems and business systems after them and our values and beliefs are British in origin.  And that creates a tension within us. 

I believe that this tension left unresolved is drying up our motivation like a raisin in the sun.  Or maybe it is festering like a sore.  Sagging under a heavy load.  Unresolved feelings be they deferred dreams or anger over the past is detrimental to an person's or people's well being.  Maybe this Restoration will provide us an opportunity to resolve these feelings.  Something to pray about.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Missing Bricks

We are in the process of demolishing the West gable wall.  This was due to the appearance of significant cracks on the outside and loosened stones on the inside.  I have noticed that where the brick lining is missing is where the damages have appeared. 
West Gable Wall
You will notice, in the picture above, when you click on it and enlarge it, that there is a crack that runs from top, where the cross is, down through the circular and semi-circular openings.
West Gable Wall from the inside
You will see from this picture above that the West gable wall is not brick lined like the North gable wall pictured below.
North Gable Wall

North Gable Wall Exterior
The deterioroation of the stones in the picture above is due to the portland cement wash on the exterior stones.  Since it is not porous it has caused the deterioration of stones all over the exterior of the Cathedral.  There are no structural cracks in this wall.

The inside of the West gable wall is lined with bricks except for one place.  The stones in this place have become loose and buckled inward.

Brick lined West gabled wall
Section of West gabled wall where stones have become loose and where the brick lining is also missing

Stone and Brick Walls

The outter stone walls of the Cathedral are made of stone and are lined with bricks.  We have seen this in  many places.  This is apparently a common feature of stone walls.

Even in the heart of stone-districts bricks are now generally used for all internal walls, and for all but the facing of external walls. Their cheapness, and the facility with which they can be laid, have led to their adoption .....
.......external walls ......consist of an outer skin of stone ..... and an inner lining of .....brick,  ...These walls have usually one stone through in every square yard, ....

Stone wall with through stone (A)
Sometimes, however, cast or wrought iron ties are used instead of through-stones...

Stone wall with brick lining bonded by wrought iron ties

West Gable Wall showing wrought iron tie
For larger buildings, ...thicker walls should be used. This gives an opportunity for substituting bond-stones as at A (See Figure below) for the through-stones previously mentioned, and the brick lining may be tied to the body of the wall either by inner bond-stones as B, or preferably by rows of headers every fourth or fifth course as at CC.1

Brick lined stone wall with outter bond stones (A), inner bond stones (B) and brick headers (C,C)
North Gable Wall with bond stone showing around the window arch
1G. Lister Sutcliffe, The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction (Blackie & Son Ltd, 1900)