Giles Fraser, until yesterday, was Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Learned, eloquent, and occasionally a little bit shocking, he resigned when it became clear that the Occupy London protestors would be removed from Cathedral grounds.
A profile of Fraser.
Andrew Brown’s take on the story.
Another piece from The Guardian on the ham-fisted actions of Dean and Chapter.
I’ve been following the story in part because of the parallels with our own experiences at Grace over the last eight months. As I repeatedly said in the early days of the Madison protests, because of our location, anything we did or didn’t do could be construed as a political act. Keeping our doors closed during the protests on those cold winter days would have sent as a powerful a message as did our decision to open the doors and invite people in to rest their feet and warm up.
Still, I also have some sympathy with those on the Cathedral staff who would like the protestors to leave. A day or two, even three, is somewhat tolerable; but the longer the stay, the greater the toll on the life of the congregation, staff, and other ministries. Just to give one example from Grace’s experience. The number of visits to our food pantry decreased by about fifty percent last February.
The question becomes, how do you make the best of such a situation? How does it become an opportunity for ministry and mission, for reaching out to people. One entrepreneurial cleric got the idea of having Flash Evensong at St. Paul’s. That’s marvelous!
Even more important, how can the Cathedral, the Church, voice the gospel in and through the protests? That’s where the Cathedral Chapter should be focusing its energy and attention. It should also be ensuring both that access to the cathedral is kept open, to visitors and to protestors alike.
Last week there was a piece going around the web from George Pitcher on how the church should approach the media. It boggles the mind to contemplate how badly St. Paul’s has handled this situation.