According to a recent census, the United Kingdom as a whole is a fairly religious place, with believers outnumbering nonbelievers. This may come as a bit of a surprise to many, as attendance at churches and other places of worship is in a downward cycle. People must still be holding on to the spiritual faith even if they don’t make it to church on Sunday.
The dominant religion in the United Kingdom and London is Christianity, with the Protestant Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church) the most common. The senior bishop and principal leader of the Anglican Church is the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his official residency is Lambeth Palace, next to Southwark Cathedral on London’s South Bank. The queen is the figurehead of the Church of England, and part of her role is to act as the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, with responsibility for maintaining the church and opening the General Synod (the legislative body of the Anglican Church).
Although many of London’s oldest churches didn’t survive either the Great Fire of 1666 or the Blitz in World War II, nevertheless some magnificent churches and cathedrals can still be found in the City of London and its westerly neighbor the City of Westminster. Two architecturally significant Anglican churches that you may want to attend for a service are Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in northwest London is the largest Hindu temple in Europe.Despite centuries of persecution, there are still many Roman Catholics in London. The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the Archbishop of Westminster, with Westminster Cathedral, near Victoria station, the most prominent Roman Catholic Church in London. As you would expect in a large cosmopolitan city, there are numerous other Christian faiths represented in London—from Eastern Orthodox to several other Protestant faiths (including Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian) and even an Egyptian Coptic Church.
Another significant religion in London is Islam; around 12 percent of the capital’s population are Muslim. The London Central Mosque, on the borders of Regent’s Park, is probably the best-known mosque in the London, although there are others dotted all around the city. Sometimes abandoned churches and synagogues have been turned into mosques, with this change in religion representing a shift in the religious and ethnic background of local residents. The Baitul Futuh Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Western Europe, is in Morden, Surrey, in Greater London.
With such a large percentage of the population having their ethnic roots in India, it should be no surprise that eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism are practiced here. London is home to the vast majority of the United Kingdom’s Hindu worshippers. The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in northwest London is the largest Hindu temple in Europe.
Jews have been worshipping in England for centuries, and they have been mentioned in documents dating from the time of William the Conqueror, although they may have been here as early as Roman times. Built in 1701, London’s Bevis Marks Synagogue is the United Kingdom’s oldest synagogue still in use today. Most of Britain’s Jews live in London, and there are several areas in North London with large Jewish populations. There are four eruvin in North or Northwest London: the North West London Eruv (covering parts of Golders Green and Hendon), Edgware, Elstree and Borehamwood, and Stanmore.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad London.