Exploring religion in London
Take a guided tour round 7 of London’s principal religious buildings in full 360° detail.
These short videos are designed to replicate on screen the experience of visiting seven of London’s principal religious buildings through the use of 360° video technology. Each building is introduced by a leading member of the community associated with it.
Although Christianity has long lost its historic religious monopoly, it remains the largest religious tradition in London, and has indeed seen some resurgence in recent years. Hence three out of the seven buildings are Christian ones. St Paul’s Cathedral represents the Church of England, still the national church with residual ties to the state although actively supported only by a minority of London’s Christians. Westminster Cathedral and Jesus House represent the two numerically largest Christian groups, Roman Catholics and Pentecostals. The latter have grown particularly rapidly since the turn of the millennium.
The other four buildings represent London’s (and the UK’s) four largest religious minorities. The early eighteenth-century Bevis Marks Synagogue is a striking physical reminder that religious diversity has a long history in this country dating back to the readmission of the Jews in 1656. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have also had a longstanding presence in London, although major purpose-built places of worship such as the Neasden Temple, the East London Mosque and the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara have only appeared in recent decades.
These buildings offer just one approach to the study of religion. They do however enable one to begin to appreciate some comparisons and contrasts between major traditions. To take the study further one needs, among other things, also to be aware of the countless smaller and inconspicuous places of worship to be found all over London and other towns and cities; to look at the rituals and practices taking place both in these buildings and in many other places; to understand the role of sacred texts and images in religious life; and to reflect on the nature and significance of religious experience. We should also balance the rich ‘insider’ perspectives offered in these videos with more detached academic analysis and remember that the rich internal diversity of religious traditions means that other ‘insiders’ might have different perspectives from the speaker in a particular video.
How to watch the videos: 360° video technology is new and isn’t yet supported by all browsers and devices. For best results, use the Chrome browser on a desktop or laptop computer. If using a mobile or tablet, open our YouTube playlist in the YouTube mobile app where you can tilt your device to look around!
Bevis Marks Synagogue
Hidden in a courtyard away from the main streets, London’s oldest surviving synagogue was built in 1701. It is introduced by the manager, Maurice Bitton.
East London Mosque
One of London’s most prominent mosques, it opened its present building on the Whitechapel Road in 1985. It is introduced by the media and communications officer, Salman Farsi.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God’s complex near Brent Cross shopping centre in north London was founded in 1994 and has grown rapidly. It is introduced by Ayobami Olunloyo.
A distinctive presence in suburban north-west London, the temple was built between 1992 and 1995 with materials imported from India. It is introduced here by Yogendra Narendra Shah.
Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara
The largest Sikh gurdwara in London, in Southall, was constructed between 1997 and 2003. It is introduced by Paramjit Singh Virdi.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The principal Church of England building in London was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1708. It is introduced by the Dean, Dr David Ison.
The principal Roman Catholic Church in London was designed by John Francis Bentley and opened in 1903. It is introduced by Anne-Marie Micallef.
These films were devised by Professor John Wolfe and Dr John Maiden from the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. They serve as a taster for a new Open University module, A227 Exploring Religion: Places, Practices, Texts and Experiences.
You can watch, listen and study more about religion on OpenLearn — and it’s all completely free.
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