Life at the fault-line

Giles Frasier writes in the Church Times about his experience when Occupy London camped out at the St. Paul’s Cathedral.

THE lectionary can be a cruel mis­tress. The evensong readings set for what was my last sermon at St Paul’s gave me Luke 6: “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. . . But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your con­solation.”

The whole point of having a lectionary is that it obliges the preacher not to avoid the hard bits of the Bible. Were the readings up to me, I would have chosen something much safer. But that is the whole point of having a lectionary: it stops you retreating into safety. There are some things that just must stay on the agenda, however uncom­fortable.

And uncomfortable it is. St Paul’s sits on a fault-line between the City of London — the boiler room of global capitalism — and texts such as this. It is no wonder that the presence of the protest camp has given the cathedral a great deal to think about. Issues of financial jus­tice are at the heart of the scriptures, and, like the lectionary, there is no way of avoid­ing it.

None of this is to say that the Church must be in league with any particular secular ideology. We are not the Labour Party at prayer, just as we are not the Tory Party at prayer. I have no truck with those who want to bring down capitalism. Markets create jobs and generate wealth.

. . .

My own views aside, one of the things that is clear is that the present, very difficult situation at St Paul’s is in fact a historic opportunity for the Church to reset its relationship with the marketplace (some­thing the Roman Catholic Church is much better at than we have been).

For too long the Church has been obsessed with its own internal work­ings and with silly arguments about sex. Now is the time for a new debate and a new emphasis. For if we are not fully involved with complex dis­cussions about the relationship be­tween financial justice and the way our financial institutions work, then we might as well give up on being a proper Church and admit that we are the spiritual arm of the heritage industry.

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