Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

 

Pilgrimage 2009

Facade of Fo Guang Temple

London Fo Guang Temple
Margaret Street


View of the mosque

London Central Mosque
Regents Park


Zoroastrian Centre

Zoroastrian Centre
Rayners Lane
A former cinema


Serving lunch

Lunch provided by
Sakhand Nanak Dham International


Moving to the raked seats

Taking our seats
for information time

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 62 – July 2009

Pilgrimage – Central London venues

Our pilgrimage began at the Chinese Buddhist temple off Regent Street, Fo Guang Temple. It seemed as though the whole community had turned out to greet and bow to us, including several monks of the Taiwanese Buddhist order. Several dozen Westminster Interfaith pilgrims climbed the steep staircase of the listed former Protestant seminary. We were asked to take off our shoes before we entered the meditation hall with its three glorious golden Buddhas, and walls decorated with smaller Buddhas. Most of us sat on the floor, and some on chairs, and we were given a lesson in sitting in a lotus or half lotus position, demonstrated by a monk, and instructed in meditation, which we tried for a while. Our visit ended with tea and Chinese treats including chocolates.

Then we took the tube and walked to the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park. We were joined there by Bishop John Arnold, and were able to pray or meditate for a while for peace in the vast carpeted chamber of the mosque, which can hold 2000 worshippers. Again we removed our shoes – and I wondered what difference it might make if we were to remove our shoes on entering our Catholic churches! Our guide explained to us the many social, religious and educational services performed by the mosque, which was completed in 1978 to cater for the increasing numbers of Muslims in London.

We returned to the tube station and took the Metropolitan Line to Rayners Lane – along the way I chatted to other pilgrims – some women from Eritrea, who were surprised to learn that I was also born in Asmara, and a woman who is head teacher of the Scientology school in London. Some pilgrims have been coming for several or many years; for others like myself, it was the first time. We crossed the road from the tube station to the Zoroastrian Centre, housed in an amazing listed former Art Deco cinema, immaculately restored by the community in recent years.

Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago, and there are about 4000 members in the UK. We were greeted warmly by members, including many traditionally dressed children, who were running around laughing and then performed songs for the now large crowd of pilgrims. We also enjoyed a simple but delicious lunch, served by the Sikh community of Sachkand Nanak Dham International, who come from Birmingham each year to provide the refreshments for the pilgrimage. Zoroastrians believe in a single wise, good and just God – and for them fire is an iconic symbol of divine presence. A few of us stayed a little longer and asked to visit the room where the fire is located – we were taken upstairs to the room where there is a barred shrine and chairs for prayer. Ideally the fire would be lit all the time, but the community does not have a full time priest – and if it were lit, we would not have been allowed to visit it. This visit was for me the highlight of a fascinating and varied day.

Vicky Cosstick

Fire – symbol of divine presence

The Fire – Zoroastrian Centre
Rayners Lane

See also Pilgrimage for Peace
Pilgrimage – North London venues
Pilgrimage – West London venues
Pilgrimage – Afternoon venues

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Pilgrimage 2009

Walking to the mosque

Walking to
London Central Mosque


The Prayer Hall

London Cemtral Mosque
Prayer Hall


 

Children in traditional dress greet the pilgrims

A friendly
Zoroastrian
welcome


At lunch

A simple Lunch
enjoyed
among friends


Children demonstrate festival rites

Re-enacting
the Zoroastrian Spring Festival

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