St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, the doyen of fashionable Manhattan parishes and a center of Anglo-Catholic culture and the English choral tradition, is spending $20 million to repair and clean its stained glass windows. And it's financing this by selling some of its air rights. (Air rights are important in vertical cities like New York, because zoning laws limit how high you can build. You can sell or transfer airspace you will not need to someone nearby who would like to build higher. Here's a good overview of air rights for background.)
I was really rather upset when I read this. In the midst of a major recession, when thousands of people are losing their jobs and thousands more just in New York need all kinds of help, St. Thomas decides to spend $20 million on stained glass windows? And not even from it's own endowment, which is considerable? I can't believe it. It would have been much more of a Christian witness to spend $20 million on emergency housing, or to donate to Episcopal service agencies like the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. or even decide to spend equal amounts on outreach and the fabric of the church. But windows and only windows?
Don't get me wrong. I believe that "worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness" is a sacred duty. But the Oxford Movement churches of London in the 18th Century combined exquisite worship with a deep commitment to the poor in their areas. I don't see much of that happening at St. Thomas.