'Destroying things is much easier than making them'
(Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games')
Most people would take heed and high tail it if they had been refused planning permission from their local council to build their perfect home. This however, was not the case for 63 year old Robert Fidler. Mr Fidler built his 4 bedroom castle complete with ramparts and canon on his land in Redhill, Surrey.
As well as building his new home he also built a 40ft high wall of hay bales and tarpaulin to obscure it from on lookers. Mr Fidler and his family moved into the house in 2001 and in 2006 he removed the wall revealing his impressive creation for all to see, including the local council.
Mr Fidler was hoping to fool the council by using a loop hole in the law which states that 'any building constructed without planning permission, and has remained unchallenged by enforcement action for four years or more, cannot be enforced against'. Unfortunately, the bosses at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council refused to grant retrospective planning permission, saying that 'he had deliberately deceived the council exploiting the four year rule' and ordered him to demolish his property. For the last 6 years Mr Fidler has been appealing against this decision but has recently lost his battle after a two day hearing.
There is a verse in the Bible that says, 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain' (Psalm 127:1). It's a bit like when Jesus teaches his parable about the wise and foolish builders - he was encouraging us to see him as the foundation stone upon which we build our whole lives. There are many ways of trying to take short cuts in life: We might be guilty of trying to circumvent the law of the land as Mr Fidler appears to have done. Or we might just be guilty of seeking to live a comfortable life without considering the plight of others at home or abroad such as those poor folks in Syria. Or the one that caught my eye recently - the case of the banking group, HBOS - which is reported to have been adversely focused on making a quick buck (or big profits) without properly assessing the risks. The bank was rescued by Lloyds Banking Group - but the cost has been huge in terms of money, jobs and ordinary people's investment in the bank's shares.
The reason this last one caught my eye is that I used to work for HBOS - so I have to ask myself to what extent am I infected by that culture? I don't know - but I do know I am guilty of the other two examples of short cuts as well - circumventing the law and thinking of myself only in life! I guess the thing is to try and recognize where we've gone wrong or are going wrong in life and make amends. And those of us who are Christians are reminded by St Paul that we ...are God's temple... [and] God's temple is sacred...' (1 Corinthians 3:16) and so we really need to make sure that every aspect of our life is carefully built upon the foundation stone of Jesus Christ.
I?m conscious I'm still very much a work in progress - but as we look at building up the church in Wickham and Shedfield - it's helpful to be reminded of that verse from Psalm 127, 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain'. And I think Mr Fidler would agree!
With my love and best wishes.
Your friend and vicar,