Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Vicar's Kids

During my sojourn in this rough part of the English Cotswolds, I have been reflecting with the other priests on the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy. In the first chapter of that letter, there is mention of two ladies - Lois and Eunice. One was mum and the other was grandma to Timothy, and between them, it is claimed, they nurtured little Timmy in the faith. Excellent.

Now some of you may have picked up on the fact that Mrs Acular and I are blessed by the perfect curly gifts that are our children - otherwise known in these parts as the Twins Aculae. They are bright little buttons, able to drive with a high degree of competency the greatest of Steve Jobs' brainchildren, and also able to engage with deep and profound theologies. No, I am not referring to the poncy theologies you find in books and through which bespectacled geezers have made a living - I am talking about the mighty questions of life under God. Jurgen Moltmann has nothing on my kids.

During our considerations concerning Two Timmy, I found myself pondering again something that niggles me - an unresolved matter that I haven't even discussed with the lady of the house. I speak of the direct spiritual nurture of my own children.

Part of me has always held firm to the notion that I am called first to be a husband, next to be a dad and then to be a priest. Mixing those things up is a perilous matter, and a matter I seek to avoid. That meant that I did not evangelise my wife before she confessed faith for herself, that as her husband, that was not my job, (and that had I tried, I would have been the recipient of a swift kick in the family jewels). The kids are at an age where this is a poignant matter once again: how to raise my children as Christians all the while not being the vicar, but being dad. In that, there is a distinction.

As I write this, I have no formulated view. Some may say that it is my Christian duty, and my priestly duty, to embody at home what I expect of my punters. However, in the back of my mind, I am aware of two things. First is that my wife and kids do not have a parish priest; second is that they are not a part of my ministry, the captive audience, the litmus test, the guinea pigs. They are my family, and exposed amply to God and his Enormities. They desire and deserve a dad, not a vicar all too close. Yet there are things I should now be thinking of as the girls themselves grow into spiritual people in their own right.

I think I am exorcised over the correct balance. Suggestions?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Withdrawal

I am currently languishing in a medieval farmhouse somewhere in the boonies. In the month before the great feast of Christmas, with a beautiful wife and two ankle-biters at home, you may question the timing. I have too, because I have, like all God-botherers, a million things that I just have to do, now. Surely January is a better month or October.

I have said it before and I will say it again - I don't find the whole stopping thing easy. I trim sleep time to do the stuff of the waking hours. It may be that I am inefficient, but it is certainly the case that I enjoy productivity and getting the job done.

The last three months since taking on this job have presented myriad myriad new experiences, new responsibilities, new pressures, new joys, new annoyances, new challenges. Like that monster whose name now escapes me, the one which grows two heads when one is lopped off - each of these new things, when 'done', offers two more new things. Exponential growth is great, and I thank God for it, but it needs a particular approach.

Somewhere in the Byble, that book we Christian folk all have, it tells of a bloke called Jesus. It tells us that he withdrew from time to time, to create a distance. I reason that if it worked for him it might just work for me. I wonder if Jesus found withdrawing easy, or rather that he just wanted to graft on into the wee small hours. But withdraw he did, often when things picked up and got busy.

So here I am, in the boonies. I have a lot of things I could be doing at home, people to meet, jobs to do. The thing is, though, that I am flagging. I have had such a wonderful few weeks but I am starting to pay the price a bit. I am tired to my bones, and that is before Crimbo really sets off properly. If I fall over through the failure to withdraw, the job will surely suffer. Worse still, my failure would be at the expense of my wife and kids.

I am here to do some work with my fellow priests from the part of London where I minister. We will study, pray and eat together. I will get a little more sleep, but most importantly of all - I am forced to stop. Kicking and screaming.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Cirencester,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Oak Trees and Greenhouses

I existed in a greenhouse, and my friend existed under an oak tree. The presence of the oak tree and the greenhouse have had an effect on us, and quite possibly how we behave on a day to day basis. 

The difference between oak trees and greenhouses is in the experience of those in the space closest to them. The thing is, you have no idea what I am talking about!

Since becoming the 'lead' in a parish, I have been given an opportunity to move from the curacy position of thinking about my own ministry to the incumbency position of thinking about the ministries of others. I have thought hard about this transition over the last few months, and have come to the conclusion that I can characterise ministries in two ways (among the many ways that surely exist) - as oak trees or greenhouses

In thinking about oak trees, I think of a something mighty, deeply rooted, long lasting, visually significant. The oak is the focus, the thing that artists paint or picture. It is an iconic plant that speaks of longevity. In thinking about greenhouses, I observe that they are modest buildings that are an important part of the garden, but rarely the focus. These are not the characteristics that I (necessarily) focus on, however. 

What is true to say is that under the wide arms arms of a mature oak, nothing else grows. There is no light and very little nourishment in the soil. What is true to say about greenhouses is that their sole aim is to give life to other things. In its modesty, it is the place of germination and new life. The oak tree is in centre stage; the greenhouse is not, it is the new plants and not the building itself. 

I believe that ministries hold some of these characteristics. They may be individual ministries or wider concerns, but the effect upon the ministries of others is largely the same, I think. The only way you can live in proximity to the oak is in being an oak too. The greenhouse doesn't choose its seedlings, it just gives them the best start. 

If you are a tree, mightiness is a favourable condition. In ministry, I fear that it is not. When a ministry is about a name, a personality - it is an oak tree ministry. If you are a greenhouse, success in the area of horticultural nurture is a favourable condition. In ministry, it is the same if that nurture is of new ministries or the enablement of other ministries within the same space. 

As I reflect upon my training experience as a curate, I learn much about how I must be as a Vicar. I was afforded all the warmth and opportunity that a greenhouse grants a seedling. In other words, I was given a new life often at the expense of the silent effort of another person. It was about me, not him. My friend, sadly, experienced the opposite; it was about his trainer not about him, and so he feels under-developed and weedy in ministry. As a Vicar, I have a duty to be the same as the one who gave me my chances. I can be an oak tree and soak up all the light, or I can be a greenhouse and channel it. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Un-Holy Smoke and Brass Handbags

It is the thing more likely to precipitate a response in church life - one way or the other! I speak not of wearing my underpants over my trousers in a family service, and I speak not of my pious red socks. Having previously mentioned vases of flowers, you can surely set them aside in favour of this red-hot potato. Nothing more than this causes either a sigh of pleasure or the tooth-gritted snarls of Beelzebub and all the Imps of Hades, normally transmitted through the bodies and expressions of good Christian men and women!

I speak of course of incense, the prayerful odours of none less than the smoking handbag - the beloved thurible. 

Be it in theological college, or in parish life - if you lob some flavoured frankincense on a hot charcoal, you get a reaction. There is no middle ground here, but rather two extreme poles of feeling, passing from deep spiritual rapture through the wonderlands of allergy and asthma and all the way to irritating skin conditions. Those who love it, love it a lot. Those who hate, loathe with menaces and blame it for just about every condition known to the medical profession. 

And I don't know why.

It is but one part of worship, like bells, like robes, like hymns, like readings, like flowers, like Gift Aid envelopes - just one small part of the greater whole. You may not be surprised to learn that I am fond of holy smoke, but that isn't to say that I am in mourning when it does not billow. 

What confuses me more and more is the reaction of the 'against' lobby. It borders on (which is to say that it is well past border-control) the irrational. I think there is a part of some human brains that associates incense with some voodoo or child-sacrifice. The reaction is rarely slight - but bombastic and fully vehement. When I am witness to this irrational response, I challenge it - inquiring what kind of hocus-pocus they are afraid of, and the simple fact is that although they HATE it (as distinct from 'dislike', 'not fond', 'marginally irritated by ...'), they don't know why. Ten millenia old it might be; mentioned in the Bible as representing prayer it could be, but when people hate the stuff, it is a formless hatred born of nothing more than silliness, or so it seems. 

Now child-sacrifice; there's a thought!




Thursday, 17 November 2011

Church and The Value of Time

I have been thinking about, and talking about the whole 'giving' thing. It is something that I have to take seriously as a Vicar, as a broke church is a fairly closed one. 

When we talk about 'giving' in church life, we are more often than not talking about dosh / wonga / cash. Entire campaigns are planned and orchestrated so that we may pursue the Mighty Dollar, at times (in my opinion) with a sense that God is a coin-operated fairground ride. In other words, you pop your coin in the slot and God will whir into action like a celestial automaton. 

This said, bankruptcy is a sure blanket to mission - just so you know that I can be balanced!

The goal, often, is to secure financial resource. In doing this, I believe very strongly that we massively de-value a resource that we already have - the time and talents of our people. 

If we think about church life, in many cases we have the wheezy cleric somewhere there, surrounded by a panoply of willing volunteers. Stewardship drives often centre around paying the bills, central to which (in the Church of England) is Parish Share / Common Fund. It is in many ways our mortgage payment. It is the means that we pay people like me and house people like me, so I have to defend it! But I cannot, do not and should not run a church alone.

Taking but one example in a church where I used to be, there was a lady who helped do the flowers. She was a qualified woman and could (and did) demand hourly rates in three figures. She worked hard and then then spent four or five hours a months doing floral displays for the glory of the worship. Her efforts may have been recognised once in a while with a passing thanks, before she returned to the world of work to be paid hundreds of pounds an hour for her time. In actual terms, the 'value' she brings to the parish could be (and should be) valued in thousands of pounds per months. If she stopped doing the flowers but gave an extra twenty a month, we would regard it as a win. 

I use this example to illustrate a point, that in church life we de-value or undervalue the time given to us. If I priced up the time given freely in my present community, and were caused to buy it in, it would generate a bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. 

When someone commits to giving us a hundred pounds a months, we celebrate and we play fanfares. When someone offers to mow the church lawn twice a month, it might generate a grateful grunt. Some church communities are hard-pressed for cash. I would argue that the value of the gift of time that they count on daily makes them rich beyond measure, but that when we don't see or smell the cash, we forget its value. We could usefully learn from the commercial world that appreciates skills and values them. We could usefully learn that lesson. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Retailer Gets Christmas

I am not normally fussed by the pre-Christmas advertising campaigns of the big retailers - too many memories, most difficult (about retail Christmases being a hard slog and wholly devoid of religion for the most part).

Until last night...

An ad appeared between the many bouts of Gladiator TV that knocked me and Mrs Acular sideways - and it was courtesy of John Lewis. [Link to You Tube courtesy of Martin]

In summary, we were treated to a tale of a boy who is wishing and willing for Christmas to come. He tries to play magic tricks with time, willfully move the hands of the clock faster, and so on. On Christmas Eve, we saw the little lad bolt down his peas, and sprint to bed, clamping shut his eyes in an effort to bring Christmas into view with greater speed than time will allow. I think at this point we could all relate, though in the first viewing did not realise that we were misjudging the motivations of this rather enchanting kid.

Christmas morning dawned and the boy jumped out of bed, paused to regard his mountain of gifts, but darted past them for a parcel secreted in his own cupboard. He retrieved a poorly wrapped (but wrapped none the less) gift and ran in to his parents' bedroom.

His joy was in giving, not in receiving. If ever a perfectly wonderful unexpected heart-warming tears-inducing story-end to a two-minute advert ever existed, I can't remember it. Mrs Acular wept, I swallowed tears back! 

Well done, John Lewis - nail on head!

Perhaps hope really does spring eternal!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering Tomorrow

Today is Armistice Day, one of a number of opportunities to do something vitally important to preserving a hopeful tomorrow - remembering yesterday.

This is one of the days when I hope that the entire blogosphere will write about the same thing, because to me, this is so important. 

Anamnesis, that whole notion of memory, is one of the fundamental heartbeats of sacramental Christianity. It is that moment, during the Prayer of Consecration when we remember the great act of sacrifice made by Jesus Christ for us. Christian Anamnesis shares much with the Jewish notion of Yad Vashem, and is placed before us in our thoughts today, and this week. 

Remembering, that means by which we re-assemble [re-member] something from our past is perhaps the best way of learning how to live in the future. Today, of course, we remember a specific historical event, that being the end of the Great War in 1918. Sunday sees the broader Remembrance Sunday, when we are called as a nation, to re-member those young men and women whose lives were taken from them in the worst of circumstances, and for a cause not of their choosing. Last week, we had the spiritual component to all of this when we remembered the faithful departed on All Souls Day. 

I once heard it said that all this remembering should reach a natural conclusion and that we should perhaps draw an end to the practice. It was suggested that we should do that when the last survivor of the Second World War succumbs to death. It is easy to forget that our "war dead" is a community that almost daily increases. Last Sunday, among the list of those who had died in our community, I read out the considerable list of more young men and women who have died for their country during 2011. A new name has been added even since Sunday. 

The simple fact behind all of this is that the names we remember are those who did not choose death. They did not choose war. They just agreed to serve. Added to the list of our war heroes, we must also remember the people who died away from the front-line - those at home bombed in their beds, the countless millions of the Shoah genocide (Jews, Roma, Jehovah Witnesses, those with learning difficulties and physical disablements and so many others), those who died servicing the machines of war, those who patrolled our streets at home, those women who died in the factories that supplied the front-line, those who died of war-related symptoms many years after the ceasefire, family members who died of heartbreak in the wake of losing their life's love - countless myriad millions of people who did not choose death. 

Half of today is about remembering those who died on our behalf. They died for you. They died for me. They died for our children. The other half is to remember tomorrow - that fateful day when we can stop choosing war over compassion and generosity, when we give instead of take, when we can dream of waking  to a day where no-one will die violently at the hands of another human being. 



They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

When you go home tell them of us, and say for your tomorrow we gave our today

Thursday, 10 November 2011

When Two Worlds Collide

May the Lord bless social media, for this day it reunited two old friends.

I have just enjoyed a good chat with a former colleague, catching up on news and changes that affected both of us. Our families have found their life, and it is also fair to say that we are both fuller in the face than we were.

We worked together in my former life in flooring. I met him in west London when he was fairly  fresh into Britain (he is from Ghana) and looking for work, and I was the one who gave him a job. We worked together for several years in different places, me as his manager and he as my very gifted principal sales-person. I think we both helped one another pay the bills, if we are honest, and it was one of the sadnesses of a change of circumstances which meant that we went our separate ways a few years ago. 

He has gone onto bigger and better things, and so have I. He was always going to excel in marketting and his currently role reflects his seniority in that world. I am a vicar.     Poles apart ...

... or so you may think. 

We have been chatting half of the afternoon about how much our jobs are the same. He is a marketting executive in the world of dentistry, and yet we have both had almost identical conversations in our work-places of late. I have written about this stuff before, the quality of the "shop front" experience for those who visit our churches, as well as the 'business needs' of the church as organisation. Much of our work, in the distinct worlds that we move, is really very similar. Alarmingly similar!

So, this is a hasty post about the joys of social media. It is also one that observes a refreshing reminder that church and parish life is really rather similar to other aspects of 'normal' life. All in all a good afternoon!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Incumbency and Vases of Flowers

A wise man once told me to be careful when moving vases of flowers. It is not that vases of flowers shouldn't be moved from time to time, or even removed and refreshed. Of course they should, when the time is right and the need apparent. 

For "vase of flowers" read "what we have always done", and for "always" read "more than three times". I speak, of course, about change, and more particularly those changes that take place within a church. The unique factor of church vases of church flowers, is that beneath each one is a trip switch which causes an explosion upon the removal of it, like a landmine. Boom. 

I am fast discovering that curates are broadly immune to the effects of the explosion (largely through the protective layer provided by the training incumbent). The Vicar is not similarly protected, and so it is that the vicar's giblets and gizzards are at perpetual risk from all movements of the proverbial Meissen Monster. 

It endlessly fascinates me, and troubles me, the effect that change has (in large or very small measure) on some people. Some Christians, it seems, are pathologically afraid of change in many ways, and I have never fully come to terms with why. Even change born of a careful process of thought, prayer and consultation (and to make something safe and available for all) seems to cause an adverse reaction, often aggressively delivered. And so it is that I am learning to toughen my already world-hardened hide to cope with the fall-out from the Floral Relocation. 

Part of the job of Vicar, as leader in many ways, is to articulate the present. Once the present is seen and acknowledged (not as easy as that may sound), it is needful to make changes from time to time. As seasons change in all walks of life, things change - and in church life at least, the Vicar (or equivalent) is often the one who 'represents' the change tothe wider community, whoever may have been involved in the process leading to it. This is not always easy, as I am fast learning. 

Change is part of living, I believe. If I didn't change, Mrs Acular would be wiping my bottom and blowing my nose for me. If churches didn't change, they would still be convening solely in mud huts in the Middle East. I wonder sometimes if change is not viewed through the same lens as death - as wholly inevitable, but an unsavoury truth best hidden from thought.

I have many vases in the church where I work. The church is beautified by them all and they are receptacles for some stunning blooms. Yet I cannot say, hand on heart, that they will all stay where they are! Someone pass me my Flack Jacket ...


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Social Media and Fainting by Numbers


Once upon a time, before even the Baby Jesus was a twinkle in the Father's eye, people first grunted and then spun out loquacious and erudite conversation with one another. Then, as the human capacity for invention increased, we started faxing papyri to one another and making use of the telephone. In the mano-a-monkey interaction, we learned how to pucker and wave our arms about to convey greater meaning to our grunts and tics. And so, dear readers, communication was born. 

Evening and morning. The first social-media. 

The measure of 'success' in that world was a reciprocal response, a reaction, a new friendship. That said, the moment was had and it vanished for ever. A word was whispered then never to be heard again. A smile stopped a heart-beat but was forgotten. The communication was transient, the effect lasting. 

And so it came to pass that there came the Wise Men (and Ladies) who, by their efforts, gave rise to the Dawn of the Gadget. God saw and knew that it was good. Evening and morning - the second social-media. During the geeky revelry, there came a serpent - its name was Wikio, and it was hell-bent on wreaking unholy havoc in the Eden of the Gadget world of Parlay. The doe-eyes gadgeteers installed the widget unto their bloggies and partook of the Forbidden Fruit - the age of innocence collapsed and so it happened that those caught in the new world of social media could quantify their activity. 

In other words, social media in the present age can give you numbers and reports. I get emails telling me who I have 'spoken' to, with what effect, under what level of reach and to which extent of influence. The serpent Wikio was quickly joined by the demons Klout and Feedjit, then the arch Leviathan Empire Avenue. All these things are, in one form or another, measuring devices. They chastise you when you have said too little, and reward you when you have been busy. For competitive men like me, it is like having an aggressive Mistress (not that I have the first idea how that would feel, you understand). I sometimes find myself making inane comments on Twitter because my Klout number fell, or posting some drivel on here because my Wikio number was lower than a snake's belly.

This is dangerous. I know I am not alone, but it is very compelling to those of us who care how we are perceived and received. Being social, in all its facets, is vulnerable under the auspices of self-measure. The much lamented Church Mouse used to post monthly the Wikio blog rankings, and the comments confirm that we bloggers and Tweeters really do care if we are successful in what we do. Gain is great; slump or decline is mortal tragedy. I regard this is a problem, and one I am trying to resolve. My rankings buttons will start to go as I try to be sure in my mind (and allow you the same) that I am doing what I do online for right reason, not simply for numerical success!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Is Church Planting a One-Sided Game?

In the natural world of nature, beasts grow by dropping seeds or sprogs, or by sending roots through the dark earth. I am not sure that I believe in magical storks or pink pudgy babies falling from stars, so I am left with this clumsy biological fact. And it works. Just look out of the window - life everywhere, all born of an older life elsewhere. 

Now that I have earned a PhD in the natural sciences, I can make a pronouncement or two about the life of the church.

I live in the heartlands of what is affectionately known as Aitchteebee - a super-church in the City that gave birth to that rarely seen thing, the Alpha Course. You speak to Christians around here, you fast discover that a great number of churches in this part of the world are Aitchteebee Plants. Frankly, they are almost without exception successful, growing and thriving places - and good for them. Someone has to be. 

Sometimes, I lose heart. I lose heart because as a catholic kind of Christian, it feels (even if it only a feeling) that our 'end' of things is well into terminal decline, with half our people leaving to be what they would now term as 'proper Catholics'. This means that there are precisely eight Anglo-Catholic priests in the whole of Britain, and so I lose heart when I see my brothers and sisters of the evangelical wing having it away with new churches, world-famous nurture courses and growth beyond all measure. 

In trying to work out why this is, I have to ask what might be going on. Is evangelicalism the only expression of faith supported by God? Nope. Is it about money? Possibly. Is the whole world evangelical except for the eight of us who like to faun over thuribles for a living? Nope. So what is it then?

It has to be a heart to church plant. Like every organic being in the whole of God's creation (and we could argue that a perfect model exists for us right there), big things emit little baby things that grow into the next big things. Yet we Anglo-Catholics just don't seem to want to bother. The sad thing is, we are easy transplants - all we need is a Mass Set, and a Bible and we are a liturgical body. I do not believe that my friends in the evangelical wing of the church have the only successful plant-model - they simply have the only plant-model (and cash, which helps, of course). 

I know that there are successful catholic communities that could plant a church (and if any of us simply waited for enough cash then we would get nowhere fast). I am not advocating a fight-back on the part of the catholics, because I believe that the world needs all of us. But it needs us by balance. For this to happen, people like me could learn a lesson from those who seem to know better, to look beyond the stylistic issues (or even celebrate the differences) and get on and grow as nature intended. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Absolute Moments of Clarity

With thanks to the Highlands of Scotland's answer to holiness and goodness personified - Facebook's very own Andrew Swift - a diagram that replaces '42' as the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Social Networking explained ...



If you cared!

From One Extreme to Another

It is only a few weeks since Ricky Gervais mocked the image of Christ on a magazine cover in order to make a further payment on his mortgage. Apart from a few bloggers, myself included, not a peep was heard from any sensible Christian anywhere.

This morning brought with it a news story of a French satirist whose offices were rendered to charcoal because he made a mocking representation of the Prophet Mohammed in his own magazine. 

In essence, the same action by two 'funny' men caused diametrically opposing responses from faith organisations. One of those responses was conspicuous by its absence, the other conspicuous by its excess. 

Surely there is some middle ground. It seems, at times, that Christians are only satisfied when attacking their own (the archbish, for example). The other lot are busy weeping into their crocheted hankies about how we are "Christians of the persecution" in Britain - and you all know what I think of that preposterous agenda. Oddly, we seem incapable or unwilling to step up and speak out about those who would seek to mock our own Saviour, which makes us the focus and butt of much comedy and insult. Equally, I am a blogger who avoids any and all talk of the Prophet Mohammed. Why? Because I fear the response by some of the more extreme of my Muslim brothers (and sisters). It is a considerable imbalance between the faiths that to my mind is difficult to swallow. 

I would love to see more Christians become gusset-rotated about some of the christocentric humour that permeates our media. I would love to see Christians stand up for their faith not in the flaccid way we see in the hands of those who simply want to impose their personal theologies. We can't even blame being British, because the world of football and rugby engenders so much loyalty and self-defensiveness. By the same token, I would call upon my Muslim brothers and sisters to not be so easily compelled to violence by the foolishness of comedians. No-one prevails in the wake of an over-reaction, any more than they do in the silent wake of passivity. 

This is a place where many people of different faiths can learn from one another. To those of us who hold it, faith is important enough to cherish and seek to protect. I am sure that every Christian parent would turn rabid in the defense of their children, just not their family in faith. Equally, I doubt that a single member of any other faith group would burn the house of the headteacher following a difficult report about their little ones. Let us all work out the middle ground, and maybe even (just maybe) find a way of defending faith in all its expressions. 


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Wrong Victims

The situation that surrounds the cathedral church of my new diocese is now an international story. It is a tale that is dividing a church in many regards, and one that is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake which seems to bear no resemblance to the purported cause at the heart of the matter. 

So, we have a gang of protesters who have an issue with the bankers and capitalists. Fine - it's a viewpoint that is open to lengthy debate. They want to make a protest within the context of the capitalist heartland but were 'moved on' by a worried establishment. I can understand that too, in the wake of demonstrations, riots and the visible and well documented assaults upon our Royal Family in our recent history. So, the protesters seek a venue, and through an act of hospitality from a priest, found themselves an oasis from which to express their views. It is their right to protest, and whatever my views are on the matter at hand, support their view to make their protest.

Then the needs of modern life kick in - the need that all society has in the present day to maintain safety and not be exposed to needless harm. I too would have closed the cathedral, but hold to the view that any of us who were not in that room at the time that that difficult decision was made have no real right to judge the decision of those pressed into that position. It is very easy to judge that decision with the happy fact of hindsight (which, of course, is an exact science). 

In the midst of decisions and hard choices, the protesters were, I assume, still protesting about bankers and capitalists - but one could be forgiven for forgetting that. Very quickly they started capitalising on the situation that the hospitality to them created - and using the name of Our Lord as a tool of protest. This very quickly stopped being about bankers and capitalists, but about biting the very hand that feeds (or in this case, judging the very hospitality offered by a church that didn't have to). 

And then priestly ministries started to fall. Why? Because those who exercise their right to protest seem ill equipped to know when to stop, to know when the day is done or indeed when their protest has claimed unforeseen causalities. The disagreements that ensued have claimed the ministries of fine priests who were gifted by God to undertake the ministries that they had at St. Paul's. What now for them? I doubt that the protesters give a monkey's about the priests who have lost their livelihoods, if I am honest (and I can assure them that on stipends, none of us are poster-children for the capitalist ideal). 

When (or if) the dust settles, the story won't be about bankers and capitalists. The silence from the political world is deafening, but that won't be the story either. The story will be about the wrong victims, ministries ended (which has a cost to the families of the priests involved too, lest we forget). The story will be about a pragmatic decision to close a building, not about those who precipitation that decision. 

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