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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, January 27, 2007
    Liverpool's future in the coming Time of Noah
    Some of the city's great and good, plus a few imposters like me, spent 90 minutes in The Lady Chapel this morning where John Flamson of the Government Office for the North West whisked through a powerpoint presentation on The Future of Liverpool's Economy and invited responses from two theologians and various representatives of the city's life. It was one of a number of events marking the last weekend in office of Rupert Hoare, Dean of Liverpool, who will be remembered for working hard to encourage such valuable conversations in our city during his seven years here.

    For an exploration of the future, Flamson's presentation had rather a lot of the past in it (canonical version of the Liverpool story - trade city looking to arrest postwar decline), and rather a lot of the present (we're 'off the pace' of our Competitor Cities: must do better). It also included some fine quotes by Rowan Williams, T.S. Eliot, William Blake and C.S. Lewis, but only flashed up on screen, not dwelt on in his talk, which was a shame.

    Eliot's Stranger asks a haunting question: "What is the meaning of this city?" Some of those gathered went a little way towards answering this, in telling various stories which illustrated the internal contradictions in our populace who are at once outwardly assured and strutting and simultaneously deeply scarred and lacking in self-confidence. And in noting that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive here but often finds its outlet in an underground economy which if nurturted into the mainstream, could turn our fortunes around.

    Eliot asked his soul to "be prepared for the coming of the Stranger. Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions." It struck me that most of the people who contributed today were dealing with questions which - stuck in the assumptions of moribund capitalism - didn't project us forward in our thinking. It took a relative 'stranger', Michael Northcott of Edinburgh University Divinity School to guide us towards engaging with questions around Liverpool's contribution to coming climate change, and to encourage us to consider how we might begin to relocalise our economy - to take back our money from the globalisers and to reconnect it to ourselves, here.

    Northcott (who isn't that much of a stranger to us really, he's a canon theologian of Liverpool Cathedral), left me with an image which will endure. He suggested that our present environmental (and associated economic) crisis has biblical parallels with the story of the flood. Which made me think that in the history of the world, and of our city's economy, we're entering another Time of Noah...