Friday, 13 January 2012

We want the same thing

What the hell is wrong with you tonight?
I can't seem to say or do the right thing
Wanted to be sure you're feeling right
Wanted to be sure we want the same thing

Anyone remember those inimitable words from the legend that was Joe Jackson? Meant a lot to me as a teen/twenty something, and I was reminded of them this morning.

I was privileged to attend the memorial service for John Stott at St Paul's Cathedral this morning. Tube delays meant I was rushing to the cathedral through the Occupy LSX camp ten minutes before the service was due to start, but even in my panic I found myself looking at the tents and thinking "What would Uncle John make of all this?"

The service was outstanding in every aspect. Archbishops of York and Canterbury were joined by Bishops of London and elsewhere. Music from the All Souls orchestra and choir literally sent shivers down even this fused and fragile spine. As they rounded off the service with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance you could almost feel Uncle John looking down with a wry smile at his choice of final music - and the impromptu and rapturous applause confirmed the congregation's approval.

When Mark Greene from LICC spoke he began with a reference to the camp outside, asking the question "What would Uncle John make of it all?" I agreed with all he had to say, but also had an overwhelming feeling that it would be totally wrong to come to St Paul's (a very special place for me throughout my life), attend the service and walk away. Touched by the music, prayers and tributes but not by the reality that is the Occupy camp.

How to engage with the movement didn't really cross my mind other than it was an imperative. I left the cathedral in search of caffeine and having heard that many of the protesters frequent Starbucks headed in that direction. Passing the library tent I stopped briefly to say hello to the young woman sitting on a stool there - introducing myself as from Christian Aid and mentioning that only this week I wrote to about 4500 church ministers with an update on our response to the Occupy movement.

Immediately she asked someone to cover her position and suggested we go on a tour of the camp. We chatted for probably an hour - during which I was given a steaming mug of tea from the well organised kitchen, and made comfortable in the welfare tent (pictured).

There isn't time or space to document our conversation here. But I understand better her vision of an alternative and equitable society, and her frustration at trying to change things from within that has led to her anarchist beliefs. She was interested in Christian Aid's new strategy which will focus on addressing power imbalance as a major cause of poverty. We talked about literature from Lord of the Flies to Brave New World and laughed over similarities with The Borrowers. We agreed on recycling and freecycling, on the hideousness of a disposable throwaway culture, and debated the welfare state, education and healthcare, and who exactly is the "they" that this movement is railing against.

Within the space of three or four hours I had experienced two deeply spiritual experiences. Both of them left me with plenty of food for thought and writing so expect to see more on here in the coming days. As ever thanks for reading - it's such a privilege to have this blog from which to throw a few thoughts into cyberspace and I never cease to be amazed at how many of you take a look - thank you!


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