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Introduction

Visit a church, a synagogue and a mosque within 5 minutes walk of each other. If you have time – two more churches, another mosque and a Hindu temple are ready to greet you. 

You will start along the busy A23 main road (which goes to Brighton) where you will see people and shops from many different religious and cultural origins and then walk along quieter residential roads. In recent years this area has become home to many refugees, particularly from Somalia.

What follows is a suggested itinerary. It can be adapted, shortened or lengthened, to suit your circumstances. The synagogue, St Leonard’s Church and the first mosque are all very close together. The trail can be extended (or continued on another day) to include Lewin Road Baptist Church and the Hyderi Islamic Centre (Shi’a), which is another 30 minutes walk. 

If you wish also to visit the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple and St Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church (about 15 minutes walk from the Hyderi Centre), you would need to start from that end of the trail, as you can only go into the temple before midday. If you chose this option, you might just visit the temple, St Bartholomew’s Church, the Hyderi Centre and the Baptist Church and do the rest of the trail another day. 

Shops and other businesses mentioned in the itinerary may change of course, but those described will give you an idea of what to look out for when you do your preparatory walk. Note that those marked with asterisks should be entered with a group of no more than 10 at a time.

It is obviously important to start planning well ahead if you want to go inside the buildings, as it can be quite difficult to find a day that everyone can manage (check out a faiths festival calendar and avoid Friday midday at mosques). It is also worth phoning round a couple of days before doing the trail, to double check that you are expected, as sometimes funerals or other emergencies will arise at the place of worship.

Please consider taking a donation for each place visited (places of worship do not like to charge a fee, but they do have energy costs and perhaps other expenses).

Themes to explore:

  • Reflect on differences between the religions and the similarities and things they have in common.
  • Reflect on some differences within the same religion (Anglican, Baptist and Roman Catholic churches; Sunni and Shi’a mosques).
  • Consider stereotyping and realise that not all Muslims are the same nor are all Christians the same – nor are they how the media often portray them 
  • What can you find out about the activities of the religious communities from their notice boards?
  • How and why do people’s religious ideals inspire them to serve their communities? How do they help people in need? People in the neighbourhood? People in distant countries?

Images on these pages are ©Sarah Thorley unless otherwise indicated. They may be used in an educational setting but not otherwise without permission of the author.

Trail Points

South London Liberal Synagogue

St Leonard’s Anglican Church

South London Islamic Centre (Sunni)

Lewin Road Baptist Church

Hyderi Islamic Centre (Shi’a)

Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple I.S.S.O.