St Paul's: Showing off, shutting out or showing up?

By Alan Wilson
October 30, 2011

Even amid a forest of high towers, St Paul’s Cathedral remains, architecturally, the heart of the City of London. It could be a key place for people to confront anxiety and seek a new vision for the future of humanity, money, and power.

This process, which is going on around the world, has to take in all interested parties. Limiting it to the elite who got us into this mess is insane.

After visiting the Occupy the London Stock Exchange camp on 27 October 2011, I have no idea why St Paul's shut up shop last week. The appearance of a large handful, but still only a handful, of cheap tents fifty yards from the front door would be possible to manage, one would think. If, as Woody Allen suggests, 80 per cent of success is showing up, at least now St Paul’s has re-opened it is back in the game.

But what game?

Once upon a time an Urban Parochial Church Council in the South of England was interviewing candidates for the post of vicar. One willowy Anglo-Catholic youth made a big pitch for a shift up the candle — recalling the grand tradition of Anglo-Catholic slum clergy he said “what this place needs isn’t a leader, but a priest!”

Stirring stuff... until, quarter of an hour later a local bag lady with a skinful of cider but a heart of gold, crashed through the doors crowing, as was her wont, her signature line - “Help! I need a priest!” Willowy Anglo-Catholic youth disappeared to the toilet. He did not get the job.

As St Paul’s reopens its doors, this tale raises a question for its managers. Can they redeem their initial hysterical over-reaction? Do they want to draw all voices into a vital public debate, or will they clear the site as tactfully and soon as possible, probably in the middle of the night — when Caiaphas and chums used to do their business?

In other words do they have the stomach to engage in the real world at the crest of a tidal race between people, money and power, or are they just overgrown public schoolboys playing indoor games in their own self-important Tourist Disneyland?

Over to them...

See also the interview with the author on Channel 4 television news:


© Alan Wilson is Suffragan Bishop of Buckingham in the Anglican Diocese of Oxford. His interests include spirituality, history, poetry, music, design/media, film, theology, social media, equality and human rights. This article is adapted, with grateful acknowledgment, from his widely regarded blog: You can also follow +Alan on Twitter @alantlwilson

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