Fear and trembling? Metal theft and the voice of God

In the course of preparing for a talk I’m giving on metal theft later this week I’ve stumbled upon a rather interesting conjunction of the sacred and the profane.

Theft of lead from church roofs has hit the Church of England and its main insurer, Ecclesiastical, very hard recently: in 2011 an estimated £10million for the CofE and £4.5million for its insurer (via 2,500 claims). This claim rate tops the level reached at the height of the pre-credit crunch metal theft wave (2,400 in 2008).

With over half of Britain’s Grade I listed buildings on its books, the church’s insurer has recently launched a campaign to show how lead theft from church roofs might be best deterred.

In launching its ” Hands Off Our Church Roof” campaign the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, invoked imagery reminiscent of barbarian pillage, describing the crime wave thus;

“Since the metal vandals have descended in such hordes over recent years our duty of maintenance has become nearly impossible. New Government legislation will undoubtedly help, but we all need to remain vigilant and try to get a step ahead of these well-organised raiders.” (Quotes from Bingham 2012)

Sharing the platform with the Bishop, actress Liz Hurley incisively added the observation:

“Beautiful old churches are at the heart of so many of our communities and I find it truly shocking that anyone would steal lead from a church roof. I heartily endorse the campaign to have alarms fitted.”

Her prescence also gave the press ample scope to make ‘the actress and the bishop’ jokes. A temptation which I will – of course – resist…

But what grabbed my attention the most was the suggestion that the alarm system could be characterised as ‘the voice of God’. You get a brief glimpse of this effect in Ecclesiastical’s video. A creeping figure prowling the shadows of the churchyard. Shinning up onto the roof via a carelessly unsecured wheeliebin.

A few moments later the trumpets of Jehovah ring out (well an electronic alarm) and a  recorded message (a deep-ish voice but more likely New rather than Old Testament in tone) booms out, warning the would-be thief that this premises is aware of him. That the church has sensed his presence, and is summoning human assistance. That the eye of an omniscient observer is upon him.

I’d love to hear the full message and watch CCTV of how mortals react to this spiritual ambush.

 

 

Bingham, J. (2012) ‘Voice of God to scare church raiders’, The Telegraph, 23 February

Details of Ecclesiastical’s campaign: http://www.ecclesiastical.com/churchmatters/churchguidance/churchsecurity/roof-alarms/index.aspx

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About lukebennett13
Reader & Course Leader, BSc Hons Real Estate, Sheffield Hallam University, UK. I TEACH: built environment law to construction, surveying, real estate and environmental management students. I RESEARCH: metal theft; urban exploration & recreational trespass; occupiers' perceptions of liability for their premises. I THINK: about the links between ideas, materialities and practices in the built environment. I WAS: an environmental lawyer working in commercial practice for 17 years before I joined academia in 2007. I EXPLAIN: the aims of my blogsite site here: https://lukebennett13.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/prosaic/ LINKS: Twitter: @lukebennett13; Archive: http://shu.academia.edu/lukebennett. EPITAPH: “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances.” James Joyce, Dubliners

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