The Miracle of Stratford

Where are the new build places of worship in London E20, our newest Borough? East London Humanists ponder our changing built and social landscapes in the Newham Recorder opinion piece, for publication 2 Nov ’17.

The transformation of Stratford has been ‘miraculous.’ London E20 has in just a few years become a vibrant new quarter boasting thousands of new homes and businesses, amazing recreation facilities, and of course a massive shopping centre. But it’s interesting to ask, how many new places of worship are there?

Go to any of our ancient towns or villages. You will find at least one church holds a central, dominant position. Until recently they continued to be a central feature of most urban developments.

September witnessed a historic turning point. For the first time more than half those questioned for the British Social Attitudes survey said they had no religious belief. The smart money says this trend will continue. So the development at Stratford simply reflects the decline in religious belief in our modern built landscape. The question is, how should this trend be reflected in our social landscape?

Take the law requiring schools to hold a daily act of ‘collective worship.’ Why, when less than half the population is religious? Why should pastoral care in our hospitals, armed forces, universities and prisons be the sole preserve of faith groups? Shouldn’t provision also be made for the majority who don’t believe in a God?

And when it comes to civic ceremonies, such as this month’s Armistice Day commemorations, why should faith leaders automatically take centre stage? After all, you don’t have to be religious to value life or the sacrifice of those who have laid down their life for others.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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