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October 8, 2009 3:06 am
In front of St Andrew Undershaft – one of the dozens of ancient churches in the City of London – stands the Lloyd’s of London building, Richard Rogers’ architectural ode to the explosive deregulation of the 1980s .
To its rear stands 30 St Mary Axe, the so-called erotic gherkin, a monument to the structured finance boom times of the past decade, while to its right is 122 Leadenhall where – economic recovery pending – will stand the 225-metre high “cheesegrater” tower.
Inside St Andrew Undershaft, after being empty for several years, are now rows and rows of chairs. The church is one of a growing number in the Square Mile playing host to forums, speeches and meetings that are questioning the morality and purpose of London’s financial citadel.
While some are keen to celebrate it – St Mary-at-Hill’s harvest service on Tuesday was held “in thanksgiving for the invisible fruits of our labour in this City” – others are more sceptical.
St Mary le Bow, the bells of which famously called the scullery boy Dick Whittington back to London in 1392, has always had something of a connection with social justice. Now it is hosting a series of talks looking at the moral, social and spiritual role of the financial institutions that surround it.
A representative from UBS is due to give a talk there later this year on corporate social responsibility in the recession, while in January, a leading theologian is scheduled to speak on “the City of God and the City”.
And while congregations at the City’s places of worship may not yet exactly be burgeoning, there has been, say church vergers and rectors, a larger than normal number of besuited people – not the usual tourists – wandering in and sitting in the pews at lunchtimes. For them, perhaps, worshipping at the altar of Mammon is losing its appeal.
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