On Saturday 30 June, I went on an Interfaith Pilgrimage arranged by Waltham Forest Women’s Interfaith Network. The theme was Forgiveness and Reconciliation and involved visiting seven places of worship of different faiths, in the borough of Waltham Forest, walking from one to the other.
We were joined by Sally Littlejohn, the Mayor of Waltham Forest, for part of the walk, and around twenty five people, mainly women, participated, with some joining and others leaving at different points.
The pilgrimage began in the chapel of Whipps Cross Hospital at 9.00am, with a welcome, intoduction and prayer given by Sue Diplock, curate at St-Peters-in–the Forest Anglican Church, who was our leader for the day.
We then walked to the Marian Misssionary Sisters of the Poor Community in Colchester Road, not far from the hospital. This Community had been set up by a Roman Catholic nun from Nigeria in 2000 and seven nuns live in the community house in Walthamstow at present. Their aim is To serve the poor and needy for the love of God. Their leader told us about their work with children who have special needs in the borough of Waltham Forest and how they are trying to raise funds to update their premises.
Next we walked on to Abbots Park where some members of the Bah’ai Faith had set up a table laden with delicious fruits and drinks for us to enjoy on this blazing hot day. The Bah’ai faith is one of the newest world faiths, originating in Iran in the 19th century. In the UK, Bah’ais are few in number, worshipping in each others’ houses and believing in world peace and that all religions will at some time in the future unite and that their prophet, Bahullah, is the final one.
They sang some worship songs to us before we moved on to the Shri Nathji Sanatan Hindu Mandir in Whipps Cross Road. After removing our shoes, we went into the temple area, filled with very ornate statues of gods and goddesses. We listened to some more singing and one of the leaders of the temple told us about some Hindu beliefs. We then moved into a side room and were served with some delicious vegetarian food.
In the afternoon we walked on to the Wanstead Quaker Meeting House in Bush Road, a beautiful circular building with lovely gardens. Inside we sat in silence for ten minutes, which I found challenging, although Quakers normally sit for an hour in silence in their meetings.
Again we were served with refreshments before proceeding to a Muslim place of worship, the Leytonstone Masjid in Dacre Road.
I left the pilgrimage at that point, but some others continued on to the Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue and the final stop was at the Sikh Gurdwara in Francis Road.
I had enjoyed walking alongside people of other faiths and sharing stories with them, realising how much we have in common despite our different beliefs and ways of worshipping.
This Interfaith Pilgrimage is now an annual event, so I hope to go on it again next year. It is certainly a very interesting and enriching experience.