Many of our churches have been preparing to open during the Olympics and Paralympics. Julia Porter explains a bit more about the Diocese of London ‘Faith Walks’, which link churches near Olympic venues. The maps will be available from mid-July, so come and visit! Julia writes:
In an increasingly busy and anxious world, we need places and people to create oases of peace –for individuals and for cultural and social groups.
The Diocese of London Faith Walks project promotes all day opening of churches and offers resources for parishes to interpret the Christian faith through architecture, heritage and community history. Heritage and history projects can be helpful ways into building relationships with other faith communities and neighbourhood networks. Parish churches, particularly in fragmented neighbourhoods, provide a focus for community cohesion.
This summer six Faith Walks will offer opportunities for visitors from overseas, and around the corner, to discover more about faith communities around all the Olympic venues. Six tours – four in central London and one each in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, close to the Olympic Stadium – will visit a number of places of worship, and finish at a well-known Central London landmark or transport interchange. People are free to follow these suggested routes or to simply use the trails as a guide to interesting historic religious buildings open to visit within easy reach of Olympic venues.
During the Games, we hope that many visitors will want to visit churches to stop and pray, to taste some of London’s cultural heritage, or meet local people. For some, this may be their first opportunity to experience a Christian church. With time to spare around attending events, visitors may be interested in walking or cycling to explore, rather than use congested public transport. This will also give local residents the opportunity to explore buildings they may never have previously set foot in.
So far over 40 places of worship have agreed to participate in the programme and most will be open daily between 9am and 6pm from 27 July to 9 September 2012, with many committing to extended opening times into the evening. A guide for each walk will be available from participating churches and tourist information points. This will provide maps, background information about the buildings and signpost information about public transport. On-site interpretation will vary from a simple guide to the meaning of key features in a church building to guided tours and displays.
The concept of pilgrimage is common to all faiths. A pilgrimage is a life-changing journey; the travelling is as important as the destination. Visitors to sacred sites are in a receptive mood. Sacred buildings are more than prayer spaces. They provide a hub for the community. For people of faith, caring is about making space in the heart.
For more information about Faith Walks see www.london.anglican.org/walking-routes.