St. Paul's School Demolishes Chapel To Make Room For Science Building

My days usually start by hauling my groggy arse out of bed and psyching myself up to get through the imminent depression from reading the news.

But some days I come across a story like this and the flowers bloom and the sun shines a little extra bright.

It is one of Britain’s oldest and most prestigious public schools, founded 500 years ago by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Yet St Paul’s School in south west London has knocked down its chapel to make way for new science classrooms, becoming the first of the country’s leading public schools to do without a place of worship.

And then music comes up and I go dance in the street.  All the passersby look on in surprise.

There are now plans to start saving money in 2020 to pay for the construction of the remaining buildings, but no date has been assigned to the chapel, leading to fears that it will be seen as expendable.

Fireworks start going off in the background.

The Rev Robert Stanier, an Anglican chaplain and former pupil – or Old Pauline – said he was appalled that providing a place of worship appeared to be a low priority for St Paul’s.

He said: “If it wants to be a secular school they need to be explicit about that, but if they want to have a Christian soul they should support it rather than shunt worship into an assembly hall.

“It’s not just that the chapel’s being ignored in the redevelopment, it has been demolished to make way for a science block and there’s no clear commitment to when it will be rebuilt.

“This is a school with a Christian foundation. They’re spending nearly £80 million and yet they can’t find any space for a chapel.”

Basil Moss, an Old Pauline who has been involved with the school’s Christian Union for 45 years, said he hoped there would be a rethink on rebuilding the chapel.

“The school has such a wonderful Christian tradition that we want to make sure that it continues to find a home for its spiritual life,” he said.

“I hope that the chapel will be put high on the priority list because there should be a place for such an important aspect of a pupil’s development.”

Then the streetwalkers all form a chorus as we sing a refrain of “Being told untrue things about the universe and being threatened with hell for not believing them stunts a child’s development, not the other way around!  Fa la la la la!”

Professor Mark Bailey, the school’s High Master, said that the current arrangements for worship were “entirely suitable” and that the school remained committed to its religious dimension.

“There’s no clear date for when a new chapel will be built, but it is in the master plan and there is planning permission for it,” he said.

“The reason it’s not in the first phase [of rebuilding] is because of the sequence in which planning consent means we must proceed, but there will be a place for it.”

Then the music fades, the scenery disappears, I go right back to being a curmudgeon, eat my Raisin Bran Crunch, and go to work.

Thanks to Dr. Dave for the link.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Melanie

    Drat. And the story started to so well too!

    Will you still go dancing down the street to that song? And videotape it? Or hell, come back to Vegas and we’ll dance together. Because that would make my year. :)

    • Melanie

      *story started so*

      I still can’t type correctly! Bugger.

  • Anonymous

    But JT, don’t forget the music performance* angle! I can’t remember the last science building I was in that had glorious, chapel-like acoustics. Just because I got rid of the beliefs doesn’t mean I want to do away with the architecture as well!

    (For your described music video, you can fly in the music in post, so that doesn’t count.)

    • Anonymous

      Hey! I’m not “anonymous”, I’m Rhubarb! What happened to my login?

      • JT Eberhard

        I’m not sure. Will log a ticket about this. :S You’re showing up in my email feed as “What Would JT Do?”. >:| Even in the future nothing works…