Build your church - by James Archer
Editable and printable version
Scene: Radio 4 studio. Announcers, Prince Charles and Sir Christopher Wren are in the studio; Derek, Maureen and David are all offstage on the telephone throughout; Godfrey wanders into the studio.
This was written in 1985 and needs to be slightly updated/amended each time it is used to be familiar. Although originally written with the Radio 4 call-in programme “Call Nick Ross” in mind, you may prefer to use a television studio audience (the congregation) which includes Derek and David – Maureen should still be on the telephone, and to tweak it into a format more like Question Time, although still retaining the parody of the gormless things said on radio phone-in programmes.
There is plenty of scope for visual effects and extras, people walking around the audience with roving microphones, technical problems etc, but these should not be allowed to get in the way of the message.
Announcer 1 ……. And after the news headlines at two minutes past nine this morning, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will be chairing a discussion on the design of the new church to be built to replace St Paul’s Cathedral, which was so tragically destroyed by fire last year. If you wish to take part in the discussion, the lines are open now, and the number to ring is 020 if you’re outside London, 7262-8111, I’ll repeat, that’s 020-7262-8111 for Call Prince Charles with your ideas for the new St Paul’s after the news.
Announcer 2 Peep peep peep peep peeeeep ….. Good morning, it’s nine o’clock on Wednesday the 12th of November. This is the news headlines read by Harriet Cass. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury have issued a joint statement welcoming the continuing dialogue between their respective churches, and reaffirming their desire to seek reunification within 20 years. The statement has been condemned by the Reverend Ian Paisley as intolerable. Speaking on this programme, he accused the Archbishop of bargaining with the truth of the gospel, and said that he would never accept anyone to communion unless he first renounced the Catholic faith. The Prime Minister has welcomed the proposals, but warned that they would have to be approved by a clear majority of the members of both churches. And the weather forecast: a deep depression has settled over the North Sea, and rain is expected for the next forty days.
Announcer 1 And now it’s two minutes past nine and time for Call Prince Charles.
Prince Charles Good morning and welcome to Call Prince Charles. With me in the studio to discuss your views on the design of the new St Paul’s is the architect Sir Christopher Wren, great great great grandson of the founder of the old St Paul’s and responsible for replacing his ancestor’s masterpiece. The lines are open, and the number to ring is 020 if you’re outside London, 7262-8111, that’s 020-7262-8111. But first, Sir Christopher, perhaps you could fill us in on what we are trying to achieve by building a new church.
Sir Christopher Well, there’s two things really. First, the glory of God must come first; and last, the church must be able to last.
Prince Charles Ha ha ha! Very good, Sir Christopher, first and last ….. yes, well, um, now we have our first caller on the line. Hello?
Derek Yes, I’m Derek from Newcastle. I loved the old St Paul’s, that beautiful dome and everything. I think it should be rebuilt exactly as it was. No changes at all. And can I say, Sir Christopher, I think your grandfather did an excellent job.
Sir Christopher Thank you, Derek. Can I ask you a question? We were wondering what we should do to the inside to make it more comfortable?
Derek I say, keep it exactly as it was. No changes. It’s good enough for me.
Prince Charles Is there anything about the inside you particularly want to keep, Derek?
Derek No, Prince Charles, er, just keep it as it is. Well, um, to tell you the truth, Prince Charles, I’ve never actually been inside. You know, it’s a long way to London, and I’ve never had much money to spare. I’ve always liked St Paul’s, though – it looks so nice on the postcard.
Prince Charles Well, thank you Derek for calling, and our next caller please.
Maureen Hello, is that Prince Charles?
Prince Charles Yes it is, now if you would just tell us your name, where you come from, and what your ideas are.
Maureen I’m Maureen from Ilford. Cor! ……. Is that really Prince Charles?
Prince Charles And how do you think we should design the new St Paul’s, Maureen?
Maureen (aside) Benny, it really does sound like him. Coo! I’ll be famous!
Prince Charles Hello, Maureen?
Maureen Yes, your Highness. Well, your Highness. You know, your Highness, the trouble with most churches, your Highness, is that they’re so cold, d’you know what I mean, your Highness? I think the preachers do it on purpose to stop you falling asleep during their sermons. The wind just seems to whistle through the wall, between the stones. So I was going to suggest, your Highness, that you get some proper cement and a good central heating system.
Prince Charles Thank you Maureen, for those excellent suggestions. Sir Christopher, what are the current proposals?
Sir Christopher Yes, the best cement I have come across in thirty years in business is called Fellowship. It really gets into the cracks between the stones and blocks out the draughts. As for central heating, we are proposing to use Holy Spirit fires. Very effective, they last for ever and they’re cheap to run, because they’re fuelled by faith rather than by oil or gas.
Maureen Ooh well, Sir Christopher, it all sounds a bit risky to me, fuelled by faith. I think I’d feel safer with oil or gas, at least you know what you’re dealing with.
Prince Charles Well, thank you Maureen for calling. The lines are still open on 020-7262-8111, and it’s time for our next caller please. It’s David, I think, from Brecon. Hello, David?
David Morning, I’m a farmer, and I’ve just built a dry stone barn, so I thought you might want to benefit from my experience. First you need a proper foundation, dug right down into the rock, then you need to choose your best stone to hold up the corners, and after that you need a huge pile of stones of different shapes and sizes. It’s no use having them all the same, because then they don’t fit together properly. But you need a lot of patience, as there may only be one stone out of the whole pile that fits perfectly where you’re looking for. Then ……
Prince Charles Perhaps I can just stop you there, David, since you’ve obviously got lots of ideas, and ask Sir Christopher for his comments.
Sir Christopher Yes, the site is on solid Peter rock, and the foundations are going to be made as a hard core of apostles and prophets, laid out as a cross. We’ve placed orders for a variety of stones from all over the country – green pastors, fat prophets and teachers’ chalk, with the cornerstone being specially imported from Palestine. And a question for you, David: what did you think of Maureen’s suggestion of cement to hold the stones together?
David You only need cement if you have a poor choice of stones. You might have to chip a bit off some stones, so that they rub together, but cement just fills in holes that shouldn’t be there. I’ve never heard my sheep complain of the cold!
Prince Charles No, but they’ve got woolly coats on! I think we have time for one more caller. Hello?
Gabriel Got a roof to keep the rain out?
Prince Charles What? Who was that?
Gabriel Can I come in?
Sir Christopher (aside) I think it must be Gabriel who lives underneath the arches. (loud) Morning, Gabriel!
Gabriel Is there room for me?
Sir Christopher You know the rules, Gabriel. No drinking, no smoking, and admission free ……
Gabriel Thank God for that!
Sir Christopher …… on production of a birth certificate.
Prince Charles Well, that’s all we have time for today. I’ll be back at the same time next week, when my guests will be the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to hear your views on the Unification Church. For this week, from Sir Christopher Wren and myself, it’s goodbye.