With their usual combination of witless whimsy and complete bollo , this week our local heritage queens again missed all the points (and pertinent facts) and fell for a scam set up by avaricious clergy whose willingness to fob off piles of crumbling brick would make any estate agent blush. Have a snoot at http://www.iomtoday.co.im/what-s-on/manx-entertainment-news/can-we-save-our-churches-1-7260532 and a commissioned report of the event at http://www.isleofman.com/lifestyle/culture-entertainment/our-churches/ to see what I mean.
I do hope those who chose to attend this jolly took nose-plugs. They would need them, and not just to hide the reek of bull-woopsie from the lecturer.
The venue, St. Mary’s, was probably chosen as the kind of high gothic Addams Family dump that heritage queens and Anglo-Catholic ex public-schoolies with fond memories of choirboy mutual masturbation have wet dreams about. Sadly, it absolutely reeks of damp, so it may be a relief for once that, thanks to all that Sunday camping, this would have been hidden by the pong of leftover frankincense.
But anyway….. moral decline? Collapse of the community? The island’s most cherished buildings in danger?
Well…no. None of the above, actually. Simply the latest move in a campaign whereby professional religionists who can no longer compel us to attend their churches instead try to sell them off, while retaining the ‘right’ to demand they be turned into bogus community centres which, as with the acts of worship which used to go on there, 99% of the community either cannot or do not want to use.
And as I was once very friendly with the only Manxman who made a serious study of the matter I can also reveal an ugly truth. Which is that the history of Manx church-building and renovation, since about the early 19th century onwards, has been dominated by ruthless opportunists who make Heritage Homes look like choirboys.
The usual story was that these chancers, on the one hand, loudly bemoaned the state of a town church and the slack morals of the peasantry. Once the Bishop got the hint the vicar and parish busybodies tasked with getting a new one built would receive a few less-than-subtle enticements from their friendly local builder.
The peasantry then got relocated to a ditch so that an overpriced faith-barn could be built, a few large houses also got built around it, and local employers and landowners used compulsory church attendance as a way to keep the rabble in line – at least until World War One, Spanish flu and similar distractions wiped out most of the reluctant congregation. The resulting jump in land prices also meant the village eventually got rebuilt as a council estate on a flood plain so far away that even the pious could no longer walk to evensong.
A generation later, with no jobs on-island, any remaining old houses (by now occupied by ailing pensioners with no young relatives to help out) got snapped up by incoming financiers. End result, an empty church surrounded by weekend holiday cottages and no real villagers for miles.
Finally, does it matter that elderly worshippers no longer have a place to go to? Well, yes, but what absolutely should not happen is churches closing or selling off unwanted buildings for stupendous sums banked off-island (probably via a Jersey trust) but dictating the future use of buildings they no longer own, and in return for the inconvenience being given replacements from government for their non-existent flocks to attend.