`Wellington`s Poor Dismayed By St. Paul`s Cathedral Lock-Out`

The Wellington City Missioner, Susan Blaikie , says `Folk at the Newtown Drop In Centre say they are `dismayed` at the Anglican Church`s move to bar protesters from St Paul`s Cathedral in London

Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser, a senior St Paul’s Cathedral priest, resigned yesterday in response to the tensions between the senior Cathedral staff and the on-going occupation at St Paul’s Cathedral.  Fraser has been openly sympathetic towards the occupation, at one stage encouraging the police to move on and allow the protestors to remain.

In talking with some folk at the Drop In Centre here in Newtown at the Wellington City Mission, I asked them what they thought about the closure of St Paul’s doors.  The folk who come to the Drop In Centre rely on benefits for their primary income; whether it be invalid, unemployment or superannuation.  They are all too aware of the cost of income inequality upon their own lives, and the growing stigma against them in a political culture that is increasingly work-centric.

Almost with one voice they expressed their dismay at St Paul’s closing their doors.  But they, like a lot of folk, believe the church has failed where Christianity has not.  Their response doesn’t surprise me; over the ten years since becoming a priest I’ve heard many people state their discomfort towards the church yet profess allegiance towards Christianity.

Despite St Paul’s getting it wrong, profoundly, in shutting its doors, it is equally wrong to dichotomize the church and Christianity as if one has an independent existence over the other.  Christianity is both/and a radical shift in personal and communal identity.

Christianity has failed here because the church has failed to be faithful to what God calls them to be and do.  Because I am a Christian, I share in the failure of St Paul’s and in the cost Fraser has willingly taken upon himself.  Having stated that, I also share in the faithfulness of Christians who are taking part in the occupations across the world; they too are the church.

Fraser has taken a personal and costly stand that will likely have an impact on him and his family well after the last tent has been disassembled and the occupiers return to their lives.   While his stand cannot wipe the memory of the locked doors, I hope his sacrifice will be a light to what a faithful church can be like.