Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tentative about tents..

Ok: so my little preamble is that Church of England clergy are asked to show respect for one another by not pulling down other clergy or parts of the church. In reflecting on that- and trying to genuinely honour my brothers and sisters in this strange calling that I haven't said too much about the St Paul's stand off.

Today I was heartened in a strange way that Giles Fraser felt he was able to resign. I feel heartened that on first comments his diocesan Bishop appears to be exercising appropriate care over his staff and is perhaps going to see him alright.

But I am sad at the wider situation. As I type there appears to be something going on (riot vans or something nearby). I can't help but feel a little glum about what has happened- but there is a strange sense of inevitability about it all.

Because St Paul's Cathedral lives right on the fault line of several dilemmas faced by the Church of England. The first is that of having a place of worship that is also a tourist attraction. It comes with the territory for big old buildings. And it creates problems wherever it lands. What is our responsibility? Is the Church of England the keeper of buildings or is it a worshipping community? Over the last twenty four hours a number of Christian friends have made it very clear what they think, that the church is not about buildings. But buildings have kept the church present in communities all over the UK where the rest of the church has retreated. St Paul's is not one of those places, but it is a complex issue.

Second: St Paul's is in the heart of the City of London. The City of London is the most closely packed set of vested interests in the country. It is profoundly intimidating, bullying business has ruled the roost since the cathedral was built and there are some very strong influences and influencers. I have attempted ministry there and its scary. I would rather live and work in the poorest, most violent 2% than there. Anyone seeking to represent Jesus amongst that intimidation needs our prayers.

Third: St Paul's embodies the tensions that an historically established church faces. There are some in the Church of England who believe we have a divine right to public voice etc. It is a journey for many to realise that that is simply no longer the case. Christendom is over, but our nation has not quite rejected it. In church circles all over the country we are trying to work out a new role. Some are further along the curve than others and in any high profile place of worship these tensions live out. They are worse because of the essential breadth of the Church of England.

I'm not launching a defence of St Paul's: this has not been a success on any level.

However, I am also aware that there are some forces at work that may be taking the protestors for a ride. There is a danger that the views of the protest are being hijacked. An unholy alliance of city interests and radical secularists would want nothing more than the protest becoming about how mean the church is. It diverts from the real injustice- that a very few have made a big mess and refuse to clean it up.

Anyway- I am withering now.. Maybe more thoughts later.

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