Thursday, 17 March 2011

Gold and the gospel

Expert gilder, Teresa Llewellyn is currently at work applying gold leaf to the tabernacle on the high altar of St Gregory's Church, Cheltenham. A very skilled job it is. "Can you see," she asked me, "the tiny animal head gargoyles? Unless you are up here on the scaffolding, they are invisible."

Teresa's work involves removing from the elaborate stonework the grime of ages and gold paint (of the 1970s), before she applies an incredibly thin layer of gold leaf, one of which she is holding in my photograph. A parishioner has given money to the church specifically for this purpose - some £10,000 or more I understand. It raises again the question asked by the disciples of Jesus, when a woman anointed him with a jar of very expensive ointment, "Why this waste? This ointment could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor." (Matthew, 26)

I don't know what today's answer sounds like, but I do think any expenditure of this level needs discussing within a parish community before it's embarked upon. It might even lead to the eventual decision to refuse an earmarked gift, if it was determined not to be right to be spending such a huge sum on what is essentially an unnecessary decoration. God knows there is enough real need in today's world!


Jerry said...

As a Methodist I find it hard to comment other than to say it is this sort of issue that pushed me towards the free church.

Jerry Barr

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

I have in my wallet a scrap of paper with my then 3 year old son's writing upon it. He was, it seems, standing on quicksand as he wrote it as the words fall away Right to left. These words are "Daddy you'r wonderful."

Financial value? Nothing. Worth? Priceless!

Why do so many believe that God equates financial cost with worth when all the evidence says otherwise?

Martin Stephen Williams said...

This is an offering, religious expression should have no constraint. Many people still offer a libation to God as a form of religious expression. Could this also be judged as wasteful?

If £10,000 was offered to some victims of the terrible earthquake in Japan would it bring back their loved ones or all that they held dear?

Stella said...

Dare I leave a comment on this?
No, £10,000 could not bring back the family of the poor bereaved Japanese person, but wisely used elsewhere it could change the lives of many people. Indeed, it could actually give life and hope where previously there was none.
Giving life or adorning the stonework high above the heads of worshippers? I know which I feel is the better offering to God.

Martin Davis said...

Richard Solly has written separately:

Thanks for this, Martin. It might be good to add something about the
appalling environmental and human rights impacts of gold mining. Unless
you are sure you are getting old gold or gold from some source
guaranteed to avoid the use of mercury or cyanide, you will certainly be
contributing to dangerous pollution. You might want to instal a link to
the Mines and Communities ( and
London Mining Network ( websites and to
lists of relevant articles on gold: and

All the best,

Richard Solly.

Uninterruptible Chatter said...

The first problem, it seems to me, is that you are ignoring the motive for the gift and the intention of the giver, and the second is that you have decided that what you would do with a hypothetical £10K is worthier than what somebody else is doing with a real £10K.

BTW: St Gregory's is Catholic, not Congregational.