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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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times