Welcome to my new world. I begin as priest-in-charge of St Mary, Newington, in a few weeks' time.
I arrived at St Paul's Cathedral in September 2008, the same month that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in the US. Having borrowed over 30 times its own wealth in order to play the markets with sub-prime mortgage-backed securities, Lehman Brothers became a byword for greed and irresponsibility in financial markets.Seems a damn strange thing to note?
My time at St Paul's ended abruptly with Occupy.Well, yes. Hardly surprising…
When so many others tiptoed around the problem, Occupy returned the issue squarely to one of basic fairness and inequality.Really? What, this Occupy? Are you certain?
And for all the personal darkness that resulted from my resignation, Occupy may well have saved my soul. What better place than Newington to play for those terrifying stakes described by St Matthew: that those who lose their life will find it.Ordinary people like…you?
And what better place to reflect more about the devastating effects of financial irresponsibility on ordinary people.
Before the war, the Elephant was a bustling hub of cultural activity, known as the Piccadilly Circus of south London and full of theatres and clubs. The Metropolitan Baptist church was this country's first megachurch, with up to 6,000 people packed in to hear a succession of famous preachers. It wasn't just the Nazi bombers that did for all that, but the hubris of postwar planners who wanted to think big and redesign the whole area according to one rational and integrated plan.I really don’t think you can blame the Nazis and the architects, Giles, I think there have been other factors at work too.
The question is: are developers doing the same thing to the Elephant all over again? Currently the old estates are being demolished to make way for a massive £1.5bn, 55-acre redevelopment, funded by Australian property developers and supported by Southwark council. Bill Clinton praised the proposed scheme as a model for low-carbon development. Others see it as an attempt at gentrification and relocating the poor further out of central London.Gosh, how could one argue with no less an authority than Bill Clinton?!
Last month the latest plans were unveiled for the Elephant and Castle leisure centre site. It includes a 25-metre swimming pool and a glamorous high-rise tower of private flats, but no affordable housing whatsoever. None.Errrr, wrong. It only takes a few minutes for a commenter to completely wreck that argument:
But those in deprived housing are ignored
Exhibit 1: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200183/elephant_and_castle/2043/affordable_housing/1
Over 510 of the 598 new homes being built there are "affordable" and former Heygate residents will have priority for occupation.
Exhibit 2: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200183/elephant_and_castle/1124/heygate_estate
Former residents of the awful and crime-ridden former estate there have been rehoused to much better quality housing.
I appreciate that you have only recently started your new role in this area after the problems at St Paul's, so I would suggest that you take some time to familiarise yourself with the area, its history, its residents and their actual needs, as well as the considerable efforts that are being made to meet the needs of these people.Whoops!
Remind me, isn’t there something in the Bible about ‘bearing false witness’, Giles?