31st August, 2012
2K Plus International Sports Media
Standing on Oxford Street in London, it can feel like you are in the busiest place on earth. Thousands of visitors and Londoners flock to this area every day, as it boasts one of every kind of shop imaginable. Only moments away from all of this action, tucked away in side streets, are pockets of calm and tranquillity – in the form of historic churches. Since the start of the Olympics, many of these churches have been open to the public as part of the Diocese of London’s ‘Faith Walks’, hoping to offer peace and quiet for anyone who needs it.
Wanting to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, I decided to try the central London faith walk out for myself. Starting off at All Souls Church, literally just off the main concourse of Oxford Street, I chatted to Helen Collins, one of the church assistants and organisers of their Olympic and Paralympic activities. She recounted to me a particular highlight of the past month: "I’ve seen one guy several times before, who has collected food tickets from us in the past. On this particular day we had our reflection zone happening where we had different languages of the Bible shown up on the screen, and as he was collecting his ticket he noticed his language. He stood there and read every verse that was up there. He came back later on in the day and sat in the café. It was fantastic to know that we had been able to encourage and include him."
Further on in my Faith Walk I came across All Saints Church on Margaret Street. Church warden Chris Self remarked on how there had been a surprising number of visitors through the doors on this, the first day of the Paralympics. Chris explained that, "People come for all sorts of reasons of course – some people don’t want to engage with you, they just want to sit quietly or light a candle - other people come because they are interested in the architecture. A lot of people do want just five minutes of peace and quiet."
The Faith Walks will continue to run until the end of the Paralympics, offering visitors or whoever else - like me - needs peace and quiet from the business of London.
PhoebeThompson is a freelance journalist and producer based in London and is the assistant editor of Youthwork magazine.