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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, May 23, 2003
    All mapped out
     
    Some clarification from a press release I discovered on the Ordnance Survey website today. It's not quite the situation the Telegraph article suggested. The contentious issue is around 'where a former place of worship has a new secular use but has no landmark architectural features Ð and is therefore of little or no help for navigation Ð [in this case] the building will not be highlighted with [a plain cross] symbol.' In other words, carpet warehouses, sheltered housing and arts centres in ecclesiastical shells won't appear as churches on the map. 'This has been our policy for many years and will not change,' say the OS. Well, you might have told us...

    But they have been listening to punters' points of view recently. Because the Church Times recently reported,
      Rumours that the single cross might be dropped as a symbol have raised concerns about the loss of Christian heritage, the demise of the church as a valued landmark, and the significance of the three major religions. [OS] chief press officer, Scott Sinclair said no decision had yet been made.

      "Our duty has to be with the people who use the maps," he said. "The plain-cross symbol is not something we're just going to lose, because we understand the sensitivity. We're consulting our user groups, and expect to reach a decision in the next few weeks."
    That was on 4 April. The OS Press Release was dated 14 May, and it reports that future OS 1:25,000 scale Explorer maps will still feature symbols for redundant places of worship with a tower, a spire, a minaret or dome, which have not been given new uses. If I'm reading this right, that still means the plain-cross symbol is under threat of extinction. Not sure how much this matters... I shall squint at my Explorer maps with more earnest than usual while on holiday over the next couple of weeks.