Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, and Anti-Bank Protesters
The Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser is my kind of pastor.
Fraser is the canon — the chief teaching pastor [update] — of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Guardian describes how Fraser acted when the London police stationed themselves at the doors of St. Paul’s while confronting anti-bank protesters:
A line of officers had taken up position at the top of the steps to “protect” the building. “Which was very good of them,” explained the canon. But then he had asked them if they would leave, “because I didn’t feel that it needed that sort of protection”.
And so those attending Sunday mass found themselves picking a path through the makeshift camp of around 100 tents erected at the foot of the cathedral’s steps after Saturday’s global day of action inspired by the US’s Occupy Wall Street movement.
With the sermon of the day appropriately including a gospel reading about “God and money”, the regular congregation was joined by some of the protesters. The canon had warned them the cathedral bells were “really loud”, so it was an early start to their first full day of occupation.
Telling the police to stand down while alerting the protesters that they’d have a rather big wakeup call . . . yes, Fraser is my kind of pastor.
What makes this more incredible is that this took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
If you’re not familiar with St. Paul’s or English history, imagine OWS setting up camp at Lexington and Concord, or Boston’s Old North Church, or the Alamo. If you want to know the kind of place that St. Paul’s holds in the psyche of England, think about Arlington Cemetery’s place in minds of Americans.
From the St. Paul’s website:
Among the events marked at St Paul’s are royal occasions. In 1897 Queen Victoria chose to commemorate her diamond jubilee here. More recently Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated her jubilees at St Paul’s , and also her 80th birthday in 2006. Royal weddings have been held here as well: the marriage of Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur in 1501 and famously the wedding of HRH the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
As the nation’s church, St Paul’s has also been the site of state funerals of British military leaders, including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and of the wartime Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. Services have also been held to mark the valuable contributions made by ordinary men and women involved in armed conflicts in the Falklands, the Gulf and Northern Ireland. A vast crowd also gathered at St Paul’s following the terrorist attacks on New York on 11 September 2001, as London expressed its solidarity with the people of New York at a time of grief.
People of other faiths have a place in national services at St Paul’s. In 2005, at the service of remembrance following the terrorist bombings in London in July of that year, young people representing different faith communities lit candles as a shared sign of hope during turbulent times.
In these symbolic ways London’s cathedral seeks to be a house of prayer for people of all nations. It is a place for protest against injustice and for the public express of hope for a better society. Martin Luther King stopped at St Paul’s en route to collect his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Involvement in the global community and social justice is as much a part of the working life of St Paul’s as prayer and ceremony.
Think about Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Winston Churchill, add a dash of Christopher Wren, and then tie in Occupy London (or whatever name the protesters go by) to that.
Imagine a site that evokes Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and JFK, add a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright, and then tie it in with OWS. That’s what these Brits have done. Stunning.
God’s blessings to you, Canon Fraser.
photo h/t to Oliver Bruchez