Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

Inside and outside St Paul’s

What a difference a week makes.

The banner has changed from 'Capitalism is Crisis' to 'Real Democracy Now'

When I visited OccupyLSX last weekend, eviction proceedings were under way,  there was plenty of hostility (from the London Mayor, the government), the Dean was yet to resign and Anglican bishops and archbishops hadn’t spoken publicly about the protest.  It was edgy.

Eviction is (temporarily) off the menu now and the protesters have stopped being ridiculed.  Is it less edgy?  Not really.

I attended the main morning service at the Cathedral yesterday morning and sat next to a young woman who works for Google in Delhi.  The interior of St Paul’s is one of those mighty spaces where the sound whooshes around – you hear the music in general, but nothing specific (a tune, say).  The Eucharistic Prayer included these words:

For you are the hope of the nations, the builder of the city that is to come.

Saxaphone & didgeridoo duo - wistful north African tunes & the Pink Panther

Afterwards I visited the camp, where I bumped into a Muslim friend (as you do).  He wants to bring together people from different religions to talk about the values which inform their political views.

We chatted about my idea, too: a critical look at economic (in)justice* in the light of religious and humanist wisdom.  How can we live well together, economically?  What resources do we have that we can draw on?  Jubilee 2000 is not so long ago.

The protesters have opened up a tiny bit of public space.  They are (at the least)

  • bearing witness to a global economic system that isn’t working properly & needs fixing
  • asking why so many people are getting a raw deal when there seems to be enough to go round
  • modelling a way of living together where money/the market isn’t a value in itself, it’s a means to express the values we choose to live by

John Lanchester's funny, detailed & devastating account of the 2008 crunch - it reads like a thriller.

Opposition politicians are now publicly sympathetic (Ed Milliband in the Observer, Caroline Lucas ‘real politics in action’) and high profile speakers such as Georges Monbiot are speaking at Tent City University.  The Vatican’s report on the global financial crisis has attracted a burst of publicity.

But finding ways to keep complex, international questions on the public agenda will be tough.  They will need support.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has form.  His guest editorship of the New Statesman startled not a few.

The camp outside isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – but neither is the inside of St Paul’s.

Inside, ushers in morning dress – outside, Glastonbury gear.  Inside, solemn liturgy of hope – outside, banners flapping in the wind.  Inside, the great organ – outside, a didgeridoo.  Both are ordered (in their own ways), both are hopeful, both call for new ways of living – “the city that is to come”.

The search for an explanation for the summer riots and the presence of the occupiers are stirring new responses.

Gary Younge, probably my favourite atheist, writes in the Guardian, “The occupations have shifted the conversation about what the problem is. Prior to its emergence the trend was not to talk truth to power but to slur the powerless . .  Hope where there was cynicism; solidarity where there had been suspicion. The occupations are more effective as a launch pad than a destination. Nobody knows where this is going. It’s just great to be on the move.”

* Let me know if you have any suggestions

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2 comments on “Inside and outside St Paul’s

  1. Catriona Robertson
    9 November 2011

    Hi Jeanne – thanks & wish you were here, too – you would have loved the sermon on the steps, and probably would have delivered one :)

    The Occupy people are quite keen on getting people in to share ideas & learning in their Tent City University – maybe something like that down your way? Their decision-making procedures are not a million miles from New Way, I notice . .

  2. jeanne hinton
    7 November 2011

    Great to get this . Wish I lived in London and could be there or too or that healthwise didnt prevent from doing so anyway. Your blog got me looking for poster of Tobyn Tax I once had and now sadly gone. Thought I could put it up in flat ! Anyway following what is happening with interest and let us know if there is anyway we lot here here can be supportive.

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