Tag Archive for Christian service

What Now After St. Paul’s/Occupy LSX

The question for Church Peace is: what now?

The sad scenes at the eviction of Occupy LSX outside St. Paul’s marked the end of the occupation there, yet the Occupy movement has not given up.  Also, other protest groups are in existence aside from Occupy.

The rationale for Church Peace is to connect the Church with the protest community – how best now to go about this?

The following are some ideas and I want to urge you to contribute to this process of moving forward in the ministry.

  • I have made some links with Occupy Brighton and I am looking at how I can help them there.  If anyone reading this is a resident of Brighton then do get in touch – this may be a good way to support dialogue between the churches and Occupy.
  • If any Christians are willing to take on an administration role for Church Peace, in order to maintain an email list, produce letters, and potentially organise church representatives then do let me know!
  • I would really like to hear from Christians who have their own involvement in protest groups, whatever their particular cause.  There may be an opportunity to learn important lessons from your experiences.

Do feel free to contribute ideas, suggestions and any feedback as a comment to this post!  Thank you!

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Praying Christians Dragged From “House of Prayer”

In the early hours of Tuesday 28th February the Occupy LSX camp was evicted from the land outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Although reports indicate that the eviction was largely peaceful, there are statements that some protesters were kicked and dragged by police.

The eviction had been expected, and according to the Guardian the majority of protesters packed up their belongings and began to leave before the forcible eviction began.

The “Ring of Prayer”, organised by Christianity Uncut, took place, although many Christians (including Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s who resigned over plans for eviction) were prevented from entering the area.

According to Christianity Uncut the Christians who were kneeling and praying on the steps of the cathedral were dragged away by police, and Jonathan Bartley, director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, is reported as testifying that he was kicked repeatedly by police and then dragged away.

The situation where Christians engaged in peaceful prayer are dragged from a supposed “house of God” is reminiscent of scenes not seen since the great religious reformations and political revolutions of the past.  As such, though the alleged collusion of the Cathedral authorities shows that many who are called by the Name of Christ are having difficulties deciding on whether to support the system of Western capitalism or the system of service and sacrifice, there is a strong movement of both Christians and non-Christians that will not be silenced.

The opportunity for Christians to connect with those who truly care about our society has never been greater, nor been so important.

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Ring of Prayer and Prayer Vigils

Christianity Uncut, a group of Christians that are campaigning against the Coalition government’s austerity policies, has organised a well-publicized “Ring of Prayer” for the protection of and solidarity with Occupy London Stock Exchange, or Occupy LSX.

The pledge which interested Christians are asked to sign is as follows:

I stand in solidarity with people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active non-violence.

In the event of Occupy London Stock Exchange being evicted, I intend to go to the camp to worship and to join with others in forming a ring of prayer.

I will seek to act in a spirit of love towards all concerned.

It has currently been signed by over 300 people and a list has been started enabling notification should the eviction take place at short notice.

More details here…

Prayer Vigils

As well as the Ring of Prayer, some groups have said that they will hold prayer vigils timed to coincide with any eviction taking place.

Currently we are aware of two groups endeavouring to hold vigils in Cambridge and Bradford.

I would also like to organise one in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

If you have any further details on these prayer vigils; are setting one up in your own locality; or would like to be part of one in Eastbourne, please do comment below or email admin@churchpeace.org.uk.

With many thanks.

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Joint Letter to St. Paul’s Cathedral

The following letter is being sent to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral and cc to the Bishop of London.  We have a number of signatories including Rev. George Pitcher and Simon Barrow (co-director of Ekklesia).

 

Dear Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral,

We are writing to you to express our grave concern at the prospect of a forcible eviction of the Occupy camp currently situated in the grounds of the Cathedral.

We understand that the semi-permanent camp has resulted in challenges for the Cathedral and we are not unsympathetic to this.

We also accept that ultimately the decision on eviction is the City of London Corporation’s.  The Cathedral, however, is not powerless in this situation.

We commend you and others for efforts to seek a compromise solution and we are saddened that these seem not to have borne fruit as yet.

We are very much concerned for the impact on the Church as well as the camp of a forcible eviction.  The Name of Christ will not be honoured by such an action, and the stance of the Cathedral will be seen as being at least in part responsible.

We do not believe that the Church should ever be in a position where it is identified with oppression.  Its mission and ministry is, rather, about freeing people.

We therefore hope that the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral will make a public statement saying that they do not support a forced eviction of the Occupy camp.

Signatories:

Mark Hanson (Founder, Church Peace)

Simon Barrow (Co-Director, Ekklesia)

Dr Zoe Bennett (Theologian, Cambridge)

Dr Andrew Francis (Co-ordinating Group, Radix Community UK)

Rev Ray Gaston (Tutor, Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham)

Savitri Hensman (Christian writer, Hackney)

Symon Hill (Christianity Uncut)

Rev Vaughan Jones (United Reformed Church)

Dr Gillian Paterson (Theologian, London)

Rev George Pitcher (St Bride’s, Fleet Street)

Rev Ian Rathbone (Elim Pentecostal Church)

Prof Christopher Rowland (Biblical scholar, Oxford)

Jill Segger (Quaker journalist)

Rev Dr Steven Shakespeare (Department of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Liverpool Hope University)

Jordan Tchilingirian (Research sociologist)

 

(If you would like to indicate your support for this letter then please leave a comment here.  Please do not make lengthy comments or negative comments – the intention is to gather names of those who support this letter.  Many thanks.)

As at 1pm on Wednesday 15th February we have had an additional 82 names added to the letter.  Many thanks to all!

We have received a reply from the Chapter of St. Paul’s and this can be viewed here.

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St. Paul’s Occupy LSX – Proposal for a Solution

Now, I have been warned well that I should not try to interfere or meddle in the arguments and disputes between Occupy LSX and the City of London Corporation.  The case has been heard by a judge and he will make judgement in due course.  I am not well positioned to be involved in this, and, to be honest the dispute between Occupy and the Corporation is outside the remit of Church Peace.

Yet the situation as regards Occupy LSX’s relations with St. Paul’s Cathedral is of my concern: I am a member of the Church of England and a member of the Universal Church, if not prominent or well-known.

I have a great concern that the Church, and St. Paul’s in particular, should not assume the role of oppressor.  If anything, the Church should be in the position of being the oppressed, for it is in being persecuted by wicked men that we are conformed to the sufferings of Christ and become more like Him.  The Church should not be in cahoots with those who would oppress, whether that oppression is violent, vitriolic or financial: a Biblical imperative which the Rev. Giles Fraser would probably be quite sympathetic to.

As such, I am saddened that the registrar of St. Paul’s Cathedral decided to give evidence in support of the City’s eviction plans.

Jesus, the Man and God whom St. Paul’s represents, was born into this world as a poor and rejected child.   Born to a woman who it was presumed had been immoral, turned away by everyone in Bethlehem despite being heavily pregnant until finally a kindly inn-keeper gave an outside shed as a maternity ward, so poor that at his circumcision dedication service His earthly parents gave the pauper’s sacrificial offering.  If anything the Occupy LSX camp with it’s lowly position yet high ideals is closer to the meaning of Christ’s life than the majestic church of Christopher Wren.

Yet we must also be careful.  Although many regarded Jesus as a rebel in His time, He never engaged in lawlessness.  Lawlessness is a deceitful threat that accompanies the Occupy movement, even if that threat is consciously rejected and not knowingly followed.  Lawlessness must be rejected and eschewed.  Government is not a generally and intrinsically evil institution.  The laws, traditions and institutions of the UK are in desperate need of radical reform, yet I do not believe a forceful and ill-thought out revolution is the answer, even if that force is largely peaceful.  That is my view.

Occupy LSX has stood for over three months, and much has been acheived.  Ultimately, though, the wickedness of men both oppressors and protestors cannot be dealt with by reforms or revolution.  The fundamental reform and revolution must be in our hearts, and that can only come through Jesus Christ, the Cross and the Resurrection.

Solution to Occupy LSX at St. Paul’s

With that preamble said and the admission that St. Paul’s has found itself in an almost impossible position, I would like to make a tentative proposal for a possible solution to the impasse.

Occupy should not disappear.  It has an important role.  Yet a semi-permanent camp is not practicable for a working city and a working cathedral.  Also, the occupiers themselves would be well-advised to maintain family, work and friendship links outside of the Occupy camp and technological communication.

As such I would like to propose that St. Paul’s could agree to host 2 Occupy events each, and every, year until such a time comes that the aims of Occupy are realised, whether in current form or a form to develop.

The spiritual aspect of Occupy’s aims are important, and as such would it not be a good idea for the Cathedral to host two events each year, at Easter and at Christmas?  With that situation, the Christian message of justice tempered with mercy and grace would perhaps find an opening in a disparate group, and the fervour and passion of the occupiers may even shake the Church out of her complacency and cosiness with the established systems.  Would it perhaps be an idea for the Occupy camp to host political events and for St. Paul’s to hold spiritual events during these 2 times each year?

Of course, for the movement to remain Occupy there would have to be a camp and a general assembly, but if this was limited to only as many tents as could be safely pitched on St. Paul’s owned land and limited in duration to perhaps a month, then it could possibly be practicable.

There would also need to be a gaining of mutual respect, especially as regards the rather old-fashioned principle of hosts and guests.  It would clearly be the case that St. Paul’s Cathedral would host the camps and that the occupiers would be guests, yet the old-fashioned host/guest principle requires the hosts to be servants and the guests those that are honoured.

Closing

I shall close this proposal, tentative as it is, by saying that I hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to the situation, whether this particular proposal goes anywhere or not.

And I pray that all involved: City, Cathedral and Occupy, may have a wonderful New Year.

 

If you want to add to or suggest other proposals then please do comment or email Church Peace at admin@churchpeace.rabel.org.uk.  Thank you.

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A Wonderful Example in Egypt

The news that has been coming in from Egypt has rarely been positive over the past week.

Protests, which initially began at Tahrir Square following Friday prayers on the 18th November, have escalated through the week and on the following Friday it was estimated that over 100,000 Egyptians took part in the “Friday of the Last Chance” at Tahrir calling on the military junta to step aside and allow the revolution to be completed.

Protests also spread to many other parts of Egypt and at Tahrir there were many reports of injuries and deaths from a brutal crackdown by security forces which included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Yet amongst this grievous news of fresh oppression in the Egyptian capital stories also emerged of a wonderful harmony and comradeship.

The security forces had begun to target the makeshift clinic set up in Tahrir Square and the many wounded and injured had nowhere to find refuge and treatment as the attacks from police and the interior security forces rained down.

In the midst of this suffering there has been a good news story, as both a church and a mosque have opened their doors and have been using their buildings as clinics where doctors and other health professionals have been able to treat those who have been hurt in the demonstrations.

Ahram Online has reported that the evangelical church on the outskirts of Tahrir Square has become a makeshift hospital as the pastor and church members have been unable to ignore the great needs of the injured protesters.

Ahram Online reports:

Pastor Sameh Morris of the Evangelical Church says that staff members decided to turn the prayer grounds into a hospital after security forces began targeting Tahrir’s field hospitals.

“We were worried that the protesters would not have anyone to treat them, and we simply could not keep the church doors closed in this time of need,” Pastor Morris says. “One of the miracles Jesus did was that he healed the sick, and I believe that it is my duty as a human being, as a Christian and as an Egyptian to help those who are wounded.”

A nearby mosque has also been opened up for use as a hospital and both the church and the mosque have been co-operating with each other to ensure that the injured are cared for.

Christians in Egypt have often faced severe persecution, and that situation is on-going, yet they have also been an important part of the protests for democracy and stories and pictures of Christians protecting Muslim demonstrators whilst they meet their daily prayer duties have been iconic.

Whilst the protests and strikes that are taking place in the UK cannot be said to be fully supported by many Christians in the country, and we should certainly not equate the sufferings of UK protesters with the injuries and deaths the Egyptians have faced, I believe that we can look to the actions of Pastor Morris’ church and have our heart warmed and our attitude challenged.

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Meeting with Local Evangelist

Yesterday I met with a local reverend who is now working as a full-time evangelist with the Hour of Revival Association.  The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss Church Peace.

The meeting did go very well indeed, and I shared how far Church Peace has developed and where it is at now, and he came back with a number of very good points.

Glen Scrivener, who is ordained in the Church of England and was formerly a curate at All Souls Church, Eastbourne, spoke a number of very good points.

He was very clear that Jesus should never be used as a “mascot”.  We discussed that Jesus can be appropriated by any number of political leanings and movements, but the aim in true Christianity is not to attempt mold Jesus around our beliefs but to mold our beliefs as we get to know Him better.  Linked to this was an interesting discussion on the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement and two points were raised: one, it should be more about What Jesus Has Already Done, and two, that can we really know what Jesus would do in a situation?  Do we really know Him that well as to say we know what He would do about, say, the Euro crisis?  Surely our task is to get to know Him better rather than appropriating Him for our ends.

These are challenges to Church Peace, the Church itself, and the dissenting community.

Glen is an evangelist, and obviously coming from that perspective he is very keen to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was clear on the great opportunity for this that the Occupy movement has brought; St. Paul’s initial failure; and the possibility of a different approach from the Church elsewhere.  We spoke about Occupy Brighton and may be making a visit there and he, like I, was keen to draw alongside the protesters and facilitate Church input in both a practical serving of demonstartors and in sharing and listening to the issues involved.

We also spoke of the role of the bankers, and we were clear that in Jesus’ eyes the rich banker is just as precious as the poor and needy beggar.  We warned ourselves about “religious self-righteousness” also.

Would do others think?  Do protesters actually want any input from the Christian community or should the Church just “butt out”?  Is practical service to Occupy appropriate?  Does drawring alongside the demonstrators show a bias?

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