I expect many of you have been following the St Paul’s Cathedral saga with increasing dismay, as I have. Many have found it utterly incomprehensible that the Dean and Chapter should have closed the Cathedral for a week on grounds of health and safety—grounds which subsequently have been shown to be spurious. Irrespective of the protesters’ case, St Paul’s, and by extension, the Church of England, has shown itself to be out of touch with the temper of the times, and perceived to be on the wrong side of the argument.
The one person to have emerged with credit is Canon Giles Fraser. Canon Fraser writes a weekly column for the Church Times. I usually have to sit down in a quiet place apart to read it because he has the capacity to infuriate and stimulate in equal measure. But there is no doubt that in this matter he has shown consistency and integrity. I would not go so far as to agree with Ruth Gledhill in Thursday's Times, that he should become the new Dean of St Paul’s, but he certainly deserves respect.
People are beginning to ask what is the Church of England really for? Occasionally, I get letters addressed to ‘the Curator’ of All Saints’ Church, as if the essential purpose of the church is to preserve an historic tradition, a kind of ecclesiastical museum. The historic tradition of the Christian faith is important to us—All Saints’ Day has just reminded us of our continuing fellowship with the saints of God down the ages and throughout the world—but we are also, and primarily, called to be witnesses of a living faith in Christ to our own generation. We are not dusty museums, but missional communities, radiating the love of Christ to a dark and lost world. And as such, the real life of the Church of England is to be found in the myriad living church communities throughout the land, not in national shrines like St Paul’s Cathedral.