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December 14th 2021

Religion in Modern Britain: Our Visit to the East London Mosque and St Paul's Cathedral

On Monday 13th December the Year 10 and 11 GCSE Religious Studies students visited the East London Mosque and St Paul’s Cathedral to gain an insight into two centres of worship that are part of the fabric of our metropolis.

Alighting onto the buzzing Whitechapel Road, our students donned head coverings before entering the foyer of the mosque where we were given a very warm welcome by our host Shameena. We removed our shoes and entered the large prayer hall where Shameena explained the history of the mosque and outlined its key features; as it is linked to the London Islamic Centre, the venue is a hive of activity marking rites of passage, contributing to the Covid relief effort as a vaccine centre and food bank, and acting as the location of both a primary and secondary school. After a quick visit to the wudu station, students were able to discuss Islamic belief and practice with Shameena, gaze at the large dome and minaret, and view the many tiles that line the foyer, each dedicated to an individual or family that has contributed financially to the construction of this marvellous place of worship.  

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Our afternoon visit to St Paul’s proved quite a contrast to the mosque in terms of scale, architecture and design. Josie from the cathedral Education Department guided us into the inner sanctum of the Quire to allow the students to gaze at the incredible dome. The Year 10s recognised the story of Genesis rendered beautifully in mosaic art on the walls, and the Year 11s were able to make links between their studies of Just War and the tombs of Nelson and Wellington, each of which stands guard over the memorial to Florence Nightingale. The question and answer session with the chaplain, Andrew, was a very open and honest discussion about some of the ethical themes that the students cover over the course of Key Stage 4, taking in the sanctity of life at its beginning and end, sexual ethics and personal faith. A quick group photo on the famous steps of St Paul’s ended a thought-provoking and illuminating day for all involved, and we made the trip back to Vanbrugh Park with keener insight and renewed enthusiasm for the place of religion in modern Britain.

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