FRIDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2011
On standing down from the Pastoral Team at St Paul’s Cathedral
Dear Bishop Michael,
I appreciate what a difficult couple of weeks the Dean and Chapter have had following the occupation of the cathedral precinct by protestors campaigning against corporate greed. You have been much in my thoughts and prayers as you have navigated the complex issues with which you have been presented, and the negative press which arose from the decision to close the cathedral. I am delighted that a way was found to reopen the building today which satisfied the cathedral’s duty of care towards its worshippers and visitors, and have been impressed by the degree of cooperation that Occupy London offered to enable this to happen.
It has therefore been disappointing to learn of today’s announcement that St Paul’s will instigate legal proceedings seeking the removal of the protestors. It is particularly poignant that this announcement comes on the day that IDS report an increase in top directors’ pay of almost 50% over the last year. I appreciate that St Paul’s has its own means of speaking to the issue of corporate and financial conduct in the City, but am sorry that a way could not be found of – at the very least – continuing to thole the occupation of the precinct by those with a genuine and prophetic complaint that has much in keeping with the values of the gospel.
I only recently joined the cathedral’s pastoral team and it has been a privilege to minister to the building’s many visitors. I was looking forward to more opportunities to do so. Today, however, I am left feeling embarrassed by the position the Dean and Chapter have taken. I do not relish the prospect of having to defend the cathedral’s position in the face of the inevitable questions that visitors to St Paul’s will pose in the coming weeks and months, particularly if we are to see protestors forcibly removed by police at the Dean and Chapter’s behest. It is therefore with regret that I write to inform you of my decision to stand down from the pastoral team with immediate effect.
I continue to wish you well, and a strengthening of discernment, as the situation continues to play out. All of the staff and volunteers at St Paul’s remain much in my prayers at this difficult time.
With warmest good wishes,
Another brave voice on the Cathedral Staff roster at St.Paul’s Cathedral! Another ‘Fraser’, too (no relation, I think) – one whose primary ministry is as Vicar of another London church, and who is one of many London clergy who give some time each week to help host the many visitors to St.Paul’s.
It is to such clergy that the Cathedral owes it’s ability to remain open during the week as a centre of Faith in the City. It would be a pity if these voluntary clergy all withdrew their important ministry at St.Paul’s because of what they discern as an unwillingness on behalf of the Dean and Chapter to resonate with the ‘cry of the poor’.
Off now to celebrate 8am Mass at St.Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, New Zealand. Jesus mercy, Mary pray!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand