Heavy Metal and the Church

When I was young (which wasn't yesterday) I liked heavy metal music. But with some of my Christian contemporaries and elders it was frowned on. The Satanic overtones of some groups never particularly endeared them to the Christian community... And personally I was never a great fan of groups like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and KISS (who I was reliably informed at the time were actually Knights, or Kids, depending on who you talked to, in Satanic Service). But some people tried to tell me that even the acts I did like recorded strange messages on their tracks that you picked up subliminally via back-tracks i.e. messages recorded in such a way that you could only hear them when you played a vinyl record (remember them) backwards... But in all honestly I could never hear these backwards messages until someone told me exactly what I was listening for... A bit like that dog on "That's Life" that said "Sausages!"

You don't know what I'm talking about now, do you? Perhaps I should move on.

Anyway, now the church is concerned with heavy metal again. This time the loss of it... Not the music... That's long gone (apart from a few diehard, greasy-haired fans). The issue is now real honest to goodness heavy metals... Lead from roofs... Bronze statues... For years, clerics like myself have worried about falling church attendance. Now we're encouraged to worry about some people turning up too often -- thieves.

In the past year there has been a sharp hike in the theft of lead from church roofs, triggered by the price of the metal quadrupling on international markets. Lead is now worth more than £1,700 a tonne for lead making it a major target for organised gangs looking to sell on to scrap merchants who trade into the booming markets in China and India. This has resulted in ministers and priests turning up at their church buildings to discover rainwater pouring through holes in the roof because someone, in the recent past, has stripped the lead lining overnight.

In 2005, Ecclesiastical Insurance handled just 80 claims for the theft of lead from the roofs of the 16,500 Anglican churches it insures in Britain. This year, apparently it has already handled 1,800 at a payout of more than 6 million pounds.

Churches are not the only target. Copper, tin, bronze, brass and zinc are also extremely valuable, making anything that contains them a target, from statues to railways. A bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, valued at $6 million, was stolen from an estate in December 2005 to be sold on for scrap, police said, even though it would likely have fetched only $10,000 or less for the thieves. In September this year a life-size bronze statue of Olympic champion Steve Ovett was stolen from its plinth to be sold for scrap. The railway authorities in France and Britain are also fighting an epidemic of thefts of copper wire from along the lines, rendering signals inoperative.

But while churches are not the only victims, it does throw up interesting issues for institutions which are supposed to store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)

It again raises the question as to the real worth of church property, and where our wealth and energies are invested...


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