Unfinished churchOne of the sights to see in Bermuda is the unfinished church in St George’s, the most westerly of the island’s nine parishes, and it is a good illustration of Jesus’s parable about building a tower without first counting the cost. The cost the builders should have reckoned beforehand, however, doesn’t appear to have been financial.

The parish church in St George, which today is called St Peter’s, is a fine low church along Virginia lines, in continuous use since 1612 (although enlarged a couple of times), with box pews, a three-decker pulpit in the center of the east wall, the original communion table off to one side and so on. By the middle of the 19th century, it had become pretty dilapidated, and there appears to have been general agreement that replacement rather than restoration was in order. A distinctly Gothic building was begun not far away, but as it went up disagreements emerged over how it was to be arranged inside—pulpit placement, altar versus table, where to put the table and so on. Why there wasn’t a disagreement about the Gothic style is the big puzzle; while one piece of literature in the church talked about theological differences, I suspect it was more a matter of ‘the way we’ve always done it’, which made the inside of the church crucial while the outside didn’t particularly matter. Anyway, these differences so divided the congregation that the new church was never finished, and it still sits there half finished, a popular place for weddings for the locals and a site to visit for the tourists. The money already given for the new church was given to Hamilton parish church, which had recently suffered a serious fire, and the people of St Peter’s raised more to repair and restore the church as they had known it. The rightness of this decision was demonstrated, for some, when a hurricane ripped off what would have become the roof of the new church, yet left the flowers in the grass outside untouched. The unfinished church is now a tourist attraction—a ready-made ruin, as it were.

‘Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?’ Jesus asked. In the 19th as in the 21st century, money is often easier to come by than consensus…