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BARBICAN LIFE


A View from St Giles’ S


Katharine Rumens Rector, St Giles’ Cripplegate


ome clergy are busier than others. The bright young cleric James Woodforde was having an undemanding autumn: “15 October. I caught a remarkable


large Spider in my Wash Place this morning & put him in a small Glass Decanter & fed him with some Bread, & intend keeping him. “


All was calm all was bright back then in Norfolk in 1774. A contemporary theologian wishes more priests were like him: incapable of extremes; the sort of backbone of Church of England. Well we have learnt a lot about priests and bishops in the Church of England over the past weeks. Not just the backbone, but also the headier reaches up the skeleton. 15 October 2011 was more than a spider- catching day at St Paul’s. What the press haven’t pounced upon is the fact that it was a Saturday, and Saturday is taken by many clergy as a day off. It was a balmy October day full of sunshine and promise. What nicer way to spend it than bucket and spading at the seaside with the prospect of shrimps for tea? Meanwhile back at the cathedral the campers arrived all tented-up and needing somewhere to pitch them. As a tentmaker himself, St Paul must have looked down with a critical eye on


today’s manufacturers’ ingenuity and invention. For those of us denied our familiar short-cut across Paternoster Square we noticed that the human traffic round the cathedral was not just weekend tourists. Tourists do not generally walk about in 2s carrying generators. Occupy London was upon us and the rest is headlines.


It was the end of the week and the Cathedral had shut its doors. I got a phone call (on my day off) from one of the Chapter. Could we accommodate a special service for 1000 at short notice? I did so want to help out but they were still taking down the set of The Tempest, the scaffolders were due to arrive and we only seat 350 – 400 with some degree of comfort. We all like a challenge, but I was greatly relieved when the other option, Southwark Cathedral, was able to accommodate the service. We’ve visited – the curious, and the furious; we’ve read the manifestos and graffiti. Perhaps we have come away not much the wiser. A young man dressed immaculately in white from head to foot asked me where Jesus would be. I think I was supposed to quote the overturning of the money lenders’ tables in the Temple – i.e. Jesus would have pitched his tent


outside. I didn’t, but then neither did I point out that he lived under Occupy North and Central Palestine gratis the Romans. Had they made IT to the Stock Exchange as they intended would the protesters be talking religion in Paternoster Square?


A few days later I took a pastoral stroll


to Finsbury Square. This is in the parish and vicars are programmed to visit. Although it was nearly midday the welcome reception committee had clearly not yet got up. I do not live in Occupy time zones and was 12 hours too early. I wouldn’t describe it as my most successful pastoral visit ever. The early risers and I didn’t get beyond preliminary civilities. A man on a bench was telling them that communism didn’t work. I suspected he was an old soldier. Thank goodness for freedom of speech.


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I read another snappy article by one of those who Occupy when not doing a full day’s work. I simply do not know how they keep all sunny and energetic, although this one has a hospitable shower arrangement which must have contributed to her very professional appearance for the camera. There may be secret bankers among them (as well as the occasional sleeping policeman). I went to a seminar on tax justice and learnt that London is the money-launderers destination of choice. We’re learning a lot these days. The speaker had been at St Paul’s on the Sunday evening heart and soul among the protesters.


There are many forms of greed, but not all of them are on testosterone-fuelled trading floors; perhaps we should look around us more. Tradition has reasserted itself. We have been reminded that St Paul’s churchyard was historically a place where the voice of dispute was heard. The Church of England has been reminded that it is not sufficient to squander its time on anachronistic internal monologues about gender and sexuality.


And Christmas is coming. The immaculate young man in white also wanted to know if Jesus would have been born in the Occupy site at St Paul’s. A correspondent in Church Times writes, “There would have been “no room at the encampment” among the popular and fashionable demonstrators. A night- watchman at the Stock Exchange would have surreptitiously taken them in through the back door, and Mary would have given birth in the basement among the transaction record of the pariahs of casino capitalism, fat cats and greedy pigs rather than cows loving and sheep sleeping safely. So now you know. Happy Christmas.


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