Friday, 5 September 2008

What a Difference Twelve Years (can) Make.

It is twelve years since the bomb went off in Manchester. The iconic picture at the bottom shows one of my favourite pubs and the blast, eerily similar to 9:11 pictures. It is about the same amount of time since the bus which I travelled on in London every night was blown up on the only night I chose to visit a pub for a drink and catch the later one. Manchester is unrecognisable, bigger and shinier than ever before, once again reflecting the boom years of it's incorporation and the building frenzy of the Victorian city Fathers. Things are going well and today the commission for monitoring the political situation in Northern Ireland, of which the bomb in Manchester was a direct result, has announced that the IRA has, demonstrably, no more involvement in the terror industry, but pursuing it's aims solely through the political paths of (relative) peace. There, on this miserable, wet and windy day is Good News.

It is remarkable that in twelve years, this second biggest city on the country (not counting the urban slurry called Birmingham) has rebuilt itself and refound an older confidence, from the time of the mills, and used it to attract massive, International development. People saw what was happening and came, drawn by the excitement and the chance of being somewhere as it developed, adding their voice and self to the process of the creation of the New. This happened because the whole city, public and private sector, shared the same vision and committed themselves to it. I had a conversation in the Britons Protection a few years ago with one of the leading figures of the renewal and I asked him what the contingency plans were if things did not work out and he told me that there were none. Nobody entertained, for a moment, the thought of failure. Everyone was building and building and building, sure that the world would come and see what was happening, as, of course, it did. Work still goes on, a massive development is going on by the canals in the North of the city centre, building cutting edge homes for those on benefits in a new community, the Irwell banks have been turned into a warren of skyscrapers, belonging to worldwide banking corporations and noodles and sake are available twenty four hours a day. Sushi has become so ubiquitous that it is probably available in sandwiches. Much of this is good, or has positive effects on the community.

The Church has, though, stood still. In the last twelve years we have singularly failed to excite new people and to draw them to us, witnessing the continual making new of the holy covenant, the continual heavenly sacrifice of the Mass. We find ourselves ill at ease with a world which has changed and moved on from the old truths and the old ways. What of the New Oxford Movement? Are we to harness this force and use it to make God the centre of the New World or are we to wait for the bust and walk around the ground, supporting the needy until, once again, they no longer need us? Food for thought, this weekend.