The traditional solemnity of St Paul's Sunday evensong was disrupted when four members of the Occupy London movement, which camped outside the cathedral for four months, chained themselves to the base of the pulpit.
While the choir sang, four women dressed in white shouted their own sermon to mark the anniversary of the start of the Occupy camp outside St Paul's, accusing the cathedral authorities of colluding with banks and failing to help the poor.
Occupy had been invited to read a prayer at the service, but if the gesture was an attempt at reconciliation, it was firmly rejected. After Tanya Paton, of Occupy Faith, had read her prayer, the four women rose from their seats and chained themselves to the pulpit. "In the fight for economic justice Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but you invited them in and instead evicted us," shouted activist Alison Playford.
"Your collusion with the City of London Corporation led to our violent eviction on your doorstep. You testified against us which acted to uphold injustice and inequality that is growing by the day. St Paul's Cathedral you must stand up and be counted at this great trial of history."
Then Giles Fraser agrees with Occupy London, and says "When the protest began exactly one year ago, the Church of England should also have been angry about the financial crisis."
Underscoring the success of the Occupy movement in steering the conversation on social and political issues is the following editorial that also appears in The Guardian:
With glorious timing, a couple of Christian thinktanks chose the anniversary of the Occupy protests to publish their inquiry into the future of England's cathedrals. The CofE's great domes and spires, the report concludes, "are becoming more and more attractive to surprising groups". Hours before their research is officially published, that conclusion was underlined in ways which the authors had not expected, when the St Paul's protesters who had been turfed out in February returned to their spiritual home, and pulled a stunt during evensong.
Like Pussy Riot, the feminist punks whose protesting antics in a Moscow cathedral landed several of them in jail, the returning protesters might be accused of acting rudely. Having been asked into the church to read a prayer, they produced a pointed sermon of their own invention, flaunted a banner and chained themselves up. Despite, or maybe even because of, the consciously Christian tone of the Occupy submission, some worshippers may have been offended. It is provocative, some will say sanctimonious, for the church and its faithful to be told: "In the fight for economic justice Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but you invited them in. And instead evicted us."
But the potential shock of some old lady dropping her hymnbook under the dome is of nothing compared to the many shocking things which Occupy has – in its chaotic way – drawn attention to. The shocking fact, for example, calmly noted in this week's Economist, that the plutocratic top 0.01% in American society has quintupled its claim on national income since 1980. The shocking mismatch between the jail terms meted out to English rioters for such transgressions as pinching a few bottles of water, and the abject lack of prosecutions triggered by the bankers' grandest misdemeanours. And the shocking announcement last week of another £10bn of cuts in social security, to make it perfectly certain that the poor will pay even more of the eventual bill.