In a publicity battle between a bunch of kids protesting against the most up to date bugbears around and the Church of England, the playing field isn’t exactly level. Watching St Paul’s trying to do PR is a bit like watching your Aunt Enid dance at a wedding: it’s somehow anachronistic, disjointed, just plain wrong.
At the end of the day, the church are damned if they don’t and damned if they do. They did the right thing, at first, by allowing the protestors space, but they now look indecisive and ineffective. On the one hand, you have a group of young people who are totally social network savvy and message-focused, rightly confused as to where the objections are coming from. On the other, you have a dithering organisation who effectively invited someone round for a chat and still has them in their house two weeks on.
It’s hard to know who to feel sorry for, but I feel like the church is more in need of friends right now. They’re a classic example of an organisation with a strong basic message but little idea of how best to modernise and focus their intent. Of course, they need to be careful here: we’ve all heard what happens when the church tries too hard to get the kids onside. It’s called Christian rock.
However, if the church wants to get what it feels it deserves it needs to present a reasonable but stern and decisive image and view point in the coming weeks. Instead of shutting down, it needs to open up to news and other outlets with some carefully considered comment and a spirit of debate. As it stands, when it’s a choice between listening to a dithering cardinal or a photogenic girl with dreadlocks and a designer tent, I know which producers and editors are going to choose.