It's not every day you see a friend on the front page of The Guardian. The last time I saw Canon Giles Fraser we were polishing off a bottle of Campari in a pub down the road from St Paul's. When he resigned I couldn't decide whether he was a prophet or a fool - but actually the two are one and the same. Giles will get a job - he's brilliant - but right now he has three children and no home to go to. He made a leap - not of faith, that's what propelled him to take the risk - but of radical solidarity.
And then it got messy. Everyday a Bishop, Dean or Archbishop responds, absorbs, reacts to the complicated questions and demands being raised. Whoever said that protesting was a waste of time? Sir X whom I spoke to last week, when asked his opinion on the campers, grimaced in a way only Englishmen can and said, "well, the whole thing looks so very ugly."
Sex sex sex; that's what everyone says obsesses the C of E. Interpreting the Bible and applying it to global culture, bodies and desire is never easy or even possible. Everyone loves watching a good fight though. But money: most of us have it in the bank, or at least some stashed somewhere (like under the toaster which is where my grandmother hides her pension - I won't tell you where she lives). We're all embroiled in this financial meltdown. It's a mess and it's going to get messier. Greek tragedy is not just ancient myth, it is unfolding right now on our doorstep.
On the steps of St Paul's 200 chilly, stone-bruised campers are angry. About what? Some people have complained that the protesters' aims are vague but surely that's because it's not easy to comprehend this financial crisis, never mind articulate what needs to be done about it. Perhaps it's enough just for them to be there - even with their mouths shut.
Many people presumed that the people at St Paul's not only wanted them to keep quiet, but disappear. That way, their extravagant show could go on quietly inside whilst the newly unemployed cry into their pillows and those on Housing Benefit are evicted to the sticks to be replaced by oligarchs.
Whoever claims that the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer hasn't been to church since the 1950's. Rowan Williams has come out in favour of the Robin Hood tax - a levy on bank transactions - which will have sent George Osborne into a big spin.
Still, the church needs serious PR. Walking the streets in a dog collar is always a fascinating adventure. Challenging assumptions is sweet. Sitting outside Bar Italia in Soho is one of my favourite practices. "What would Jesus do?" everyone is asking. It's not outrageous to suggest that he would regularly sip a West End cappuccino with a prostitute friend on one side, and a desperate drug addict on the other. Certainly, the complexities of the modern world wouldn't scare him off.
The resignations and mixed messages coming from St Paul's suggest that neat answers don't come easily. Good religion never offers a tick-box fix. So the protesters remain. The stairs of one of London's boldest icons has not become a market place, but an auditorium: a place to listen to each other. The church loves a good drama. For the next few months the stage is set and the Church of England has the chance play a radical role.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more