Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A day in London

Yesterday Jane and I enjoyed one of our occasional forays to the capital. I'd been invited to talk at St Paul's and St Mellitus' College, which is based at St Paul's, Onslow Square, in Kensington. I would have looked at the whole building with a different eye had I realised that the recent restoration of the church was designed by Sir Norman Foster. Hence the headline which Brotherly Love pointed out to me later, "Foster turns to religion". The article from World Architecture.com is accompanied by a nice picture:

First church for Lord Foster

Foster and Partners have revealed plans to transform a Grade II listed, 1860 church into a church for the 21st century. Incorporating a ‘Family Life Centre’ a Theology College, café, bookshop, lecture facilities and 3 residential units the building will become a modern place of worship. The design approach for a maximum capacity of 1,200 is founded on a sensitive restoration of the original building together with the insertion of an adjacent contemporary building. Major improvements will be made to the energy efficiency. Replacing the existing vicarage and church hall, the new extension meets the building with a glazed atrium, ensuring links between the functions of worship with education, community and living. Comp oct 2008.
I didn't see enough to judge. It looked pretty impressive to me. However I know you'll expect me at least to comment on the disabled facilities! Entry ramp fine. Loo... I'm afraid to say, it was simply too small. Even with Jane helping me there wasn't enough room to manoeuvre a wheelchair. In fact we ended leaving it outside. How someone on their own manages I don't know. On the plus side there was a good supply of grabrails. However, the emergency alarm-pull was, for some reason, wrapped round the central light fitting out of reach! As at the new Ashmolean it seems that disabled toilets are an Achilles' heel of even eminent architects' practices. 

The welcome, however, left nothing to be desired. Genuinely warm people, real coffee, M&S sandwiches...! It really looks like a place that open-minded people who reckon Christian faith is moribund or irrelevant should check out before reaching a final conclusion. Anyhow, the students seemed to appreciate what Jane and I had to say about disability and terminal illness. I mentioned then a couple of stories I'd recently come across in the news.

from Sheffield Telegraph Kate leading off a local run
One was about Kate Allatt, a 40-year-old mother of three, who'd suffered a massive stroke and ended in a "locked-in" state for months. Amazingly she's now doing the "impossible", talking and running :
"Doctors said stroke victim was brain dead". On her website, she says, "Whilst I wanted to die in intensive care, I'm glad I didn't, now." It's quite a story, and a good news story what's more. She's just had a book published. Which might make you wonder why you didn't hear more about it on the BBC. She got interviewed on Sheffield and Northampton radio, and a short piece on the Jeremy Vine Show.

The other was about a survey carried out for Scope, the leading Disability Charity, about legalising assisted suicide. Among other things it showed that 70% of disabled people are opposed to it.  Scope's press statement ended with this telling paragraph from Richard Hawkes, its chief executive: "We have serious concerns about the so-called ‘Commission’ on Assisted Dying, which despite its name is nothing to do with the Government. It feels like their findings are a foregone conclusion, with the debate loaded in favour of assisted suicide. The Government needs to form its own independent non-biased commission to explore this.” The BBC, who featured a voters' poll in January in favour of assisted suicide, were absolutely silent about this one.... One wonders why.

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