Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Church and the Occupation: my day at St. Pauls

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised to find the Church telling a fib or two, and stretching a story beyond credulity. After all, its happened before.

Unable to believe what The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral are saying about risks to health and safety caused by the Occupation, and the "absolute necessity" therefore of preventing people from going to worship, or just to enjoy the marvelous inner spaces of the building, I went down to see for myself.

(Throwing deadlines to the winds I might say.  As a freelance scribbler, my pockets are not so deep that I can afford to cut off income at a stroke - unlike some that the occupiers could poke with a very short stick.  But hey, this is an important moment!).

What I found is this:

There is NO PROBLEM with access to the church.  That is a canard.  I could see no risk to health and safety. I could not see any indication that the Cathedral has been disturbed in any material sense, although clearly it is rattled by the progressive forces on its very doorstep.

I could see no reason why several bus-loads of school children could not visit the Cathedral with perfect ease, nor scores of weddings be held in its vast chambers.  There may be legal or regulatory requirements, but these are usually subject to interpretation, and it really looks as though only ecclesiastical perversity is preventing worship inside the cathedral today.

A very bad move for them.

It is the Dean and Chapter themselves (plus of course whoever is exerting pressure on them, if such there be) who are preventing access.

It is they (and whoever may be pressuring them ...) who have closed the enormous doors ...

... and locked the gates.

The demonstration is disciplined, still quite small and very focused and principled, although at the moment I would say the issues have more to do with process than substance.  There is much of clarification and guidance.

It is also, contrary to slanderous rumour, very neat, orderly and clean.

with a cheerful little library.

But substance there is, albeit emergent.

I also liked the diversity.

But what I liked most was the serious, thoughtful, purposeful atmosphere.  From the Tent University...

which was packed to the gills. ...

to the discussions everywhere .....

to the reading of discourses

to the political posters, which demonstrate a rather consistent and, I was pleased to note, distinctly anti-imperialist, position .....

It seems that the Cathedral management has lost its head, overplayed its hand and shot itself in the foot:  the occupyers are calling its bluff.  

They have asked the Cathedral in an open letter to specify exactly which risks to health and safety are of concern, so that they can be addressed.  Its a good job we are not holding our breath on this one, as more than 24 hours have passed, and there has been no response.

Apparently the Cathedral is basing its actions, once again, on an ill-defined mystery.

And I can't resist this little LoL.  We are everywhere.

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