Faith on Wall Street

In the third of our series on faith in the financial crisis, the Rector of Trinity Wall Street offer

The basic comfort of the Christian tradition is that God is with us. The pastoral response for those whose lives are being affected by the economic crisis is not that you won’t lose your job, or that the downturn will be short-lived. The guidance is simply a reminder that God is in our midst – that whatever happens, God promises companionship.

From our vantage point in New York City, the sidewalks are emptier, the stores and the restaurants less crowded. Pastoral counselling sessions are booked. And yet it is remarkable to me that people are still giving of their time and financial resources to good causes. We’ve not seen a downturn in financial giving, nor have many of my colleagues.

I would argue that the concern people have over their futures appears to have made us more alert to the needs of others – as paradoxical as that may seem. It is as though our old self-interest is being trumped by a concern for the other, and the realisation on the part of many that we are all in this together.

People often speak of the iconic status of our church – our historical lineage, our architectural presence, and indeed our location, looking down Wall Street these many years. And yet we are also iconic because we are a spiritual presence, a consistently welcoming house of prayer in the midst of a financial centre.

We are seeing more people enter the church for spiritual reflection. In these moments, many begin to realise that crises can be opportunities for a fresh start. I try to remind people to focus on what they can control, because in a crisis there is a tendency to feel as though everything is out of control: “I can’t control the economy. I can’t control my boss. I can’t control the stock market.” So what can I control? I can control myself and, to some extent, my primary relationships and my relationship with God.

The Church and all people of faith may have a role in shaping the new economy. This “new economy” phrase appears to be catching on, and I think that people are coming to understand first, that something new is needed, and second, that there is a chance for a fresh start. Admittedly, understanding and shaping this new economy feels a bit grand, and a bit far off right now. Now we are in the trenches, doing practical, detailed work. We're offering courses in coping with job-related stress. We’re offering guidance in how to look for a new job. We are offering pastoral counselling day in and day out.

And as always, our doors are open.

Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper is Rector of Trinity Wall Street, New York City

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To stop Jeremy Corbyn, I am giving my second preference to Andy Burnham

The big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Voting is now underway in the Labour leadership election. There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the frontrunner, but the race isn't over yet.

I know from conversations across the country that many voters still haven't made up their mind.

Some are drawn to Jeremy's promises of a new Jerusalem and endless spending, but worried that these endless promises, with no credibility, will only serve to lose us the next general election.

Others are certain that a Jeremy victory is really a win for Cameron and Osborne, but don't know who is the best alternative to vote for.

I am supporting Liz Kendall and will give her my first preference. But polling data is brutally clear: the big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Andy can win. He can draw together support from across the party, motivated by his history of loyalty to the Labour movement, his passionate appeal for unity in fighting the Tories, and the findings of every poll of the general public in this campaign that he is best placed candidate to win the next general election.

Yvette, in contrast, would lose to Jeremy Corbyn and lose heavily. Evidence from data collected by all the campaigns – except (apparently) Yvette's own – shows this. All publicly available polling shows the same. If Andy drops out of the race, a large part of the broad coalition he attracts will vote for Jeremy. If Yvette is knocked out, her support firmly swings behind Andy.

We will all have our views about the different candidates, but the real choice for our country is between a Labour government and the ongoing rightwing agenda of the Tories.

I am in politics to make a real difference to the lives of my constituents. We are all in the Labour movement to get behind the beliefs that unite all in our party.

In the crucial choice we are making right now, I have no doubt that a vote for Jeremy would be the wrong choice – throwing away the next election, and with it hope for the next decade.

A vote for Yvette gets the same result – her defeat by Jeremy, and Jeremy's defeat to Cameron and Osborne.

In the crucial choice between Yvette and Andy, Andy will get my second preference so we can have the best hope of keeping the fight for our party alive, and the best hope for the future of our country too.

Tom Blenkinsop is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland