Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Holy holy places, Batman!

September 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

We’ve visited five places of worship in our time here: the Swaminarayan Mandir, Central Synagogue, East London Mosque, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey. I include the Abbey with extreme hesitation, but ultimately do so because you have to pay if you visit like we did, but it’s free if you want to worship (look under “entrance fees”). Let’s break it down scientifically.

Mandir, Mosque, and Synagogue:

Confession (pun intended): before these three visits, I had never entered a non-Christian place of worship. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but generally found all three to be a pleasant experience. Part of me wishes we were able to go to a smaller place of worship and see a mandir, mosque, or synagogue that was strictly for research. But they probably would not be nearly as accommodating to a group of 27, and we also would have missed out on the community outreach we saw at the places that we went to. Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism are very different religions (although not as different as accounts of “religious” warfare would have one believe). One thing I saw that differentiated them as a group from the Christianity that I’m more acquainted with, though was the emphasis on serving the local community. In no way am I saying that these religions are more concerned with service than Christianity; all four religions are too massive to make generalizations like that. I am saying, however, that the Catholic churches that I’ve grown up with take collections for feeding and proselytizing faraway lands. BAPS, the Central Synagogue, and the East London Mosque were all very concerned with their very local community of believers.

St. Paul’s & Westminster:

Borderline places of worship. This did not devalue either place for me in the least; Westminster Abbey is just so mind-blowingly historic that I still haven’t figured out a way to synthesize what I saw there. And St. Paul’s remains a spectacular triumph of architectural design. Still, though, all I was able to pick up about Anglicanism in these two outings was through indirect encounters. After being in these two places, my gut tells me that the Church of England has been culturalized, that it isn’t about the faith. But I really, really wish I went to a run-of-the-mill Anglican church on a Sunday morning. Without having done that, I can’t add anything to the numbers that anyone can read.

Categories: 2010 Dennis · Churches and Cathedrals

1 response so far ↓

  •   Karl // Sep 23rd 2010 at 09:14

    Good hyperlinks. All these faith traditions are present in Norwich. Seek them out and compare to what we saw in London

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