“If Paradise is half as nice” as Amen Corner, one of those forgotten bits of Wren designed gentile London, whence Giles Fraser was once privileged to lay his effortlessly right-on liberal multi-cultural espousing head, then he may feel he has made some progress back up the greasy Christian pole when he finally meets his maker.
He acquired the grace and favourÂ Amen Corner celestial repose by diligently telling the woolly minded senior clerics that which they wished to hear. Â He gave them column inches forÂ theirÂ pet projects. They returned the favour with public schools for his threeÂ children. He patronised them with yards of dense Nietzsche philosophy. The church elders beamed as he preached from the pulpit of the BBC and the Guardian. He reliably preached the gospel of political correctness in support of gay marriage, lesbian bishops, multiculturalism – was there ever a liberal agenda too far for him?Â
Sure, he denounced the crucifix as a ‘symbol of cruelty’Â and declared that he ‘hated Jesus’Â but such views do not unduly disturb the hierarchy of the Christian church these days. He rejoiced when he was made honorary canon of a cathedral with ‘no roof or doors or windows’ in dusty fly-blownÂ Sefwi-Wiawso, Ghana – but the hardships of the occasional visit to this new parish were soon forgotten on his return to gracious living in the book-lined study within sound of the bells of St Paul’s.
Then he transgressed. It is one thing ‘empowering’Â vulnerable prostitutes in Ghana to escape their pimps ‘through the medium of dance workshops‘ (oh my!) but empowering the vulnerable in a parish church with a roof, and doors and windows is a hardship too far for a glamorous media oraculateur.
Giles fell foul of the dictum that money is the root of all religion. He stood between the media savvy and ‘of the moment’ Occupy movement with their Ipads and Starbucks, churning out eulogising reports ‘from the front line’ – and the real front line, the money men of St Pauls.
Dubbed the ‘loose Cannon’ he was cast out into the real world of parish priestery – a concrete block on the Heygate estate in South London. Tantalisingly close to his favourite watering holes, just across the river – Giles is very much what used to be known as ‘clubbable’, the man is fond of a glass of wine or two, and a cigarette. This was no Amen Court though:
Sunday often begins by clearing up all that has been left by those sleeping behind the church tower: empty cans of super-strength Tennent’s lager, syringes, crisp packets, various used hygiene products, and piles of excrement, often with soiled underpants that have been used as makeshift loo paper. The pavement and the pillars at the front of the church are stained with spurts of junkies’ blood. Disgusting doesn’t really cover it.Â Â
Is Giles ‘empowering’ the local drug fiends through the ‘medium of dance workshops’ to switch to fluffy Andrex – or at least give old fashioned Bronco a try? Or rejoicing that his new church has both roof and windows? Perhaps running the London marathon to raise the Â£60,000 a year it costs to keep a parish priest in Inner London?
Not a bit of it, Giles is fulfilling his commitment of a weekly column to the Guardian, his BBC and Radio appearances, his visiting professorship to the London School of Economics; enjoying his subsidised school fees for the sprogs and his rent-free central London accommodation all of which make him one of the top earning clergy – whilst waiting to take up his Church of EnglandÂ pension.
And whining at the top of his voice that ‘inner-city Christianity is dead’ because ‘the middle classes’ can no longer afford to subsidise people like him.
He should take a look at some of the mosques around the Heygate estate – he won’t find them abandoned to the junkies on a Saturday night whilst the Imam writes for the Guardian……
Oh! he already has:
I have often stood outside Indo, one of my favourite littleÂ LondonÂ boozers, sipped a glass of wine, pulled on a fag and pondered to myself what goes on inside the mosque immediately opposite. Even from the Indo side of Whitechapel Road you can tell the mosque is always busy.
Spot the difference Giles – here’s a clue, it’s not some socialist redistribution of profits from wealthier communities.