My Cathedral

“My cathedral has a ceiling of blue; My cathedral ‘neath the sky; Where I may lift up my eyes onto the hills; And hear music from a stream rippling by. My cathedral has an alter of flowers; Their fragrant incense fills the air. In my cathedral I am closer to Him than I could be anywhere; For here I pray, in a place so grand. The carpet I kneel on was made by His own hand.

“My cathedral has candles lighted by the stars; And mighty pillars of trees.

“No others cathedral is so beautiful; For God made my cathedral for me …..”Jim Reeves.

The above lyrics are from a song of same title, sung by the legendary Jim Reeves, who died when the plane he was piloting crashed on July 31, 1964, leaving behind hundreds of songs in gospel, country and rock genres. The last sentence in the song speaks more of his body as a cathedral made by God. Indeed, Gentleman Jim, as he was widely known, is telling us that our body is the temple (cathedral) of God.

No other body is more beautiful than your own because that is where you are closer to Him. In supplication to the higher self, you close your being to anyone and anything else; where you pray in a place so grand.  The only thing grander than you is the One who made/created you.

All these bring me to the hoopla about a National Cathedral. During his electioneering campaign in 2016, then candidate Nana Akuffo Addo of the New Patriotic Party said if  God helped him win the presidential poll he would build a Cathedral to honour Him. He won the presidency, but whether it was God who won it for him is open to conjecture.

Opinion has been as divided as there are people in the land. Some say it was a personal pledge so Nana Addo should fulfill same from his personal resources. Others said that as president, he made the pledge for and on behalf of the people of Ghana so all must support and contribute towards its construction. But these people forget that when Nana made the pledge he was not president. Question is when does an individual pledge the burden of the collective?

A few years ago a BBC survey revealed that there were over sixty thousand churches in Ghana alone. There is no news about some of the churches operating in the open, thus exposing worshipers to the vagaries of the tropical weather. And many of the churches only have full attendance during certain events like funerals, weddings, Christmas and Easter celebrations.

Anyone desirous of building a Cathedral is free to do so. But if it is to be a national monument, the sensible thing is to moot the idea and get the nation to discuss its importance and get our lawmakers to debate it, if funding is to be charged to the public purse. What is the difficulty with this? I see no difficulty.

But we were all made to understand Ghana’s money would not be used.  Later, two hundred million of our money was doled out for the cathedral project and christened seed money, whatever that means. This flies in the face of a member of the cathedral board assuring us all that public funds would not be used. This simply is openly stealing money from the people.

What it all means is that members of the cathedral board have been hoodwinked to serve on it. Or the member who told the whole world that state funds would not be used had told us a lie. If he told the truth, then as men of the cloth and integrity, they should have considered themselves ambushed and deceived and relinquish their membership of that board. It would be a great service to their calling and country if they left.

There is an Akan proverb that translates to mean if a fellow in the nude offers you clothing, look at his state. How can Nana Addo, who carries a chair all over the country in superstitious abandon, claim to be so God-living as to build a Cathedral to honour Him? I have searched the globe and Ghana’s president is the only leader to carry his own chair to official functions. And a fuel guzzling V-8 is dedicated to carrying this chair alone. This cannot be for the physical safety of our president. In many jurisdictions, venues for presidential visits are swept for bugs and potential explosives.

Assuming there was a national consensus for a Cathedral, the wisest thing to do would be to look for a virgin land for the purpose. What sense does it make to pull down property worth over a hundred million dollars just to build a Cathedral worth same amount as was initially stated? It is not as if many of our compatriots dwell in that general area for which reason a Cathedral could serve their religious needs. This area is virtually empty of people after close of work on Fridays because it is located near offices and workplaces.

There is almost always a gridlock during state events in that area, which houses our Parliament, National Theatre, the Accra International Conference Centre, the Accra Sports Stadium, the Independence Square, the popular Osu Cemetery and many more, not to mention almost all our ministries.

Ghanaians love events that bring them together. If a national cathedral is sited at, say, Tsokpoli, we can be sure that our people will troop to fill up the place for a state event. That is who we are. But to pull down structures put up with public funds just to put up such physical edifice cannot please the God our president seeks to honour.

I share in the argument that if a national  cathedral serves any nation’s spiritual purpose, the Ivorian Basilica in Yamoussoukro would have saved that country from its civil war. Houphouet Boigny even sited it far away from the capital, Abidjan. I agree it might be serving some tourism purpose, but what our president is obsessed with cannot be for that purpose primarily. Even then, there are more tourist sites to consider and prioritize than a Cathedral or Basilica.

But who says God dwells in physical edifices? Just as Jim Reeves said, “For God made my Cathedral for me.” There also is an Esoteric Maxim that, “One coal will not make a fire but where a number of coals are heaped together, the heat, which is latent in each, will be kindled into a flame, emitting light and warmth.” It is in this vein that the Bible says where a number of people are gathered together in God’s name, there He is among them. A Cathedral, whose very idea is so divisive cannot serve this religious and/or spiritual purpose.

Making a pledge to God is not a walk in the park, even in private, let alone in the public glare. It involves, first, one’s personal spirituality. Second, one must consider the heavy burden of redemption of such a pledge. It is an enormous load to carry. I believe Nana Addo realised this enormity after he won Election 2016 and felt stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he would not fulfill the campaign promises butto the people, at least, that to God must be redeemed. This is where one man’s fantasy has entangled a whole nation.

There was a news item that rocks were imported from Israel to serve as foundation stones of our national cathedral. This amuses me no end. Is this because Israel is perceived as the Holy Land and thus these rocks are holy? Who says anything or everything from Israel is holy? A land where there is a meaningless orgy of bloodshed day in day out cannot, in my estimation, be holy.

Don’t we have men of God imbued with the knowledge and spirituality to consecrate rocks or stones from Afienya to serve as cornerstones of a cathedral? I saw hordes of people dressed as Rabbi in the streets of Israel, but an Israeli friend told me over 70 per cent of them are fake.

I do not want to belabour the argument that there are more pressing national issues than a cathedral. The issues stare us in the face each day we are lucky to rise up in the morning. Let the lizard that ate the chilli sweat it out; not the innocent frog.

Writer’s email address: akofa45@yahoo.com

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