What is going on at St Paul’s? A media fire-storm of terrible and fevered reporting, dis-information and mis-information. Is it all sweetness and light now? That depends on who you ask. So, my friends and anyone who reads these pensees of mine, here is what I think:
The Cathedral closed, was that a mistake? No, in the circumstances it was inevitable. The camp was set up too near the Cathedral walls and steps so that, in the event of a fire or an accident, there was nowhere for the emergency services to get access to the site, which made it a Health and Safety Risk. Whereupon the insurance became invalid. Once that was sorted out and the tent city was moved further away from the fabric of the building itself – the Cathedral re-opened. Anyone going to the site now can see well defined avenues, access routes and general order and cleanliness throughout.
Now The Dean has left, things seem to have calmed down. Are the two things connected? Well, yes. Of course they are connected. But for all the wrong reasons. In a very real sense, the resignation of The Dean caused shock waves through the Church of England, and surprise within the camp. Many people in Tent City expressed surprise and some even expressed dismay. But this is nothing compared to the tremendous loss to the Cathedral. The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles was exactly the sort of churchman that we need right now. Those of us in the congregation know, through his preaching and service, the Truth of the Gospel. He is a fine churchman and it will be a ghastly stain on the future of the Church if this episode renders him silent, and it will be a terrible loss. But it was the media, not the circumstances, which made his position impossible: by peddling a few facts and many glaring errors, they were effectively hedging him into a maze from which there was no escape, except by constantly turning left until he was out – there was no constructive way forward for him. Any one who does not regard this turn of events with deep sadness knows not of what he speaks.
Do celebrity visits make a difference? They put Occupy London back on the front pages, but I wonder who or what the celebrities are supporting. Is Vivienne Westwood there to support the campaign against the rich? Who buys her garments? Largely the 1% against whom Occupy London are protesting. Certainly not the unemployed! Or is she there to support the people who are campaigning for justice? There is certainly one person there who wants justice for people who are kept in prison beyond the legal length of time for remand without trial. Did VW speak to him? I rather doubt it, but if she did – wouldn’t it have been a good idea to write something about it? A friend of mine went and did speak to him, she was sceptical about his claim – BUT HEAR THIS PEOPLE – I know of another case, almost identical. There are people held in prison without trial for way longer than is allowed by statute. Several years in fact – and guess what? Many of them are people of colour!
Will the camp pack up in the New Year, as arranged? Well, that remains to be seen. But who ‘arranged’ it and how many of the occupants of the camp signed up to the agreement. My guess is that they won’t go and the Corporation of London will start making noises about forcible removal…and it will all kick off again.
Finally, if only the people outside went inside and had heard, over many, many months the sermons preached against greed, against consumerism and the like they would have realised that the Cathedral is their ally and that it would have made much more sense to surround the Temple to Mammon just across the road at the East End of the Cathedral – One New Change which is where the real money-changers hang out.