Lord Mayor’s Show 2012

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.’

Please be seated.

So the Hackney Preacher found himself, on the occasion of the Lord Mayor’s Show, standing with his “Reclaim the City” banners against the wall of some Chinese-owned bank opposite the Mansion House balcony. The painted sheets were flapping like wet washing on a too-loose line.  He was out in protest against the destestable enormities of the Corporation of London.

The forces of resistance may have been a bit motley but the battle lines were clearly drawn. It was a black and a white thing, a right and a left thing, a this and a that thing. It was Spurs v. Arsenal.

Yet as he stood there, opposite the new Lord Mayor, the late Lord Mayor, various other bleached out mayoral has-beens with their consorts and their tawdry retinue of crony councillors, the Hackney Preacher couldn’t help but notice that there was also, amongst their number, a couple of the City clergy.

There was that Mr Fraser from the cathedral church of Saint Paul as well Mr Crossley, the clergyman with responsibility for the parish of the Bank of England – the vicar of St Margaret Lothbury. Or to give him his full pageant master’s title: the vicar of St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mildred Poultry and St Mary Colechurch.

For it is a sad fact that, just as their redundant patronal designations hover around these streets like angels around the throne of heaven, whispering in the vicar’s ear of the Glory that has departed, the once fine steeples of this medieval benefice have now been replaced by the steel and glass and stones of Babylon.

In his person, Mr Crossley is like one of those coastal ghost towns whose churches have all been claimed by the progress of tide and storm, crumbling into the sea and leaving behind (such as in the case of Dunwich in Suffolk) only a ruined abbey, a pub and a fish and chip van for the visiting curious: the residents have long gone.

This was all almost too grievous to contemplate for the Hackney Preacher as he made his way back through the Shore Ditch along the High Road to his parish up at the top of the Hill at Stamford.

The Day of Judgment is surely coming, is surely coming, he tells himself on the poop deck of the 149 bus as it passes over Dalston Junction and Shacklewell Lane, but we’re not there yet, oh no, my brothers and sisters, we’re not there yet and for the time being the sheep will continue to bleat with the goats and the tares will continue to grow with the wheat and the rain will continue fall on the just and on the unjust alike; praise the Lord.

And as he turned into the Terrace, lowing to himself of the coming tremendous Judgment of the Lord, he nearly tripped up over a couple of men who had parked themselves on his church steps, swigging their cans of lager and generally despoiling the Eastern prospect of his Georgian Tower.

The one nearest to him looked pretty comfortably enthroned. He occupied the whole step and was flicking ash onto the pavement.

“Could you please move your arse off my steps?” said the Hackney Preacher.

“Hey Preacher Man, what’s your problem? Take it easy, man. We’re cool, take it easy man.”

The two men shuffled off the steps onto the street, too pissed to resist, stumbling like like a couple of stunned animals.

“And take your beers with you.”

The Hackney Preacher went into the Vicarage and straight upstairs to his study. Before turning on the light he went to his desk and, opening a top drawer, he fingered his way through the detritus of paperclips and broken pens. Where was his rolling tobacco? He hadn’t used it for a few weeks. When he found it he sniffed it: dry as a sprig of thyme.

Putting it into his cassock pocket, where such things usually disappeared altogether, he pushed open a hatch in the ceiling of his study and made his way across a small intersecting grill onto the roof of the vestry and then up ladder and across a low ledge and onto the roof of his church.  This is where the Hackney Preacher went to keep an eye on his parishioners and to smoke.

He could see the two drunks settling onto another step a little further up the Terrace. As he sat back in his lounger he felt a certain fellow feeling. Turning in the opposite direction, across the rooftops and above the housing estates of Hackney, his gaze rested on the office cluster of the City of London. Tall towers gathering like self important doctors on a ward round circling the bed of a sick patient.

Sheep or goat? he asked himself in a unlikely moment of self-scrutiny.

And all for His sake.

Parish Notices

The Parish Council meets on Monday at the Vicarage to discuss the drains.

On the feast day of Saint Cecilia (22 Nov) prayers will be said for the second-century virgin martyr who was suffocated by her retinue while visiting the baths. It is also exactly 21 years since Mrs M Thatcher was done over by her cabinet and resigned.

Further Midrash concerning about the detestable enormities of The Corporation of London by BBC Radio 4’s The Report is available here