Happy holidays to you all from Hampstead! It’s the amazing triple whammy this year - Passover, Easter and Ramadan are all falling at the same time, which, by any standards is quite unusual. Luckily, in a city as international and multicultural as London, anyone who wants to worship - or even attend a service out of curiosity - has plenty of options.
Indeed, even on our doorstep, in Hampstead and the wider north London area, there are services being held not just for these major holidays but on a weekly basis and many (if not all) of them are happy to welcome guests - sometimes you can even just walk in.
Today, we’re looking at a few of the places of worship both in Hampstead and within a short public transport ride, or walk, in our part of the capital. We hope it’s useful and that, whatever your faith, you enjoy yourself this April,Happy Easter!
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Heath Street Baptist Church
Just a stone’s throw from La Gaffe, and halfway between Hampstread tube station and the beginning of Hampstead Heath lies this lovely little church on the same street as our establishment. Founded in 1861, this is a church big on community, with lots of local participation.
Each Sunday there is a traditional sermon with prayers, hymons, Bible readings and a sermon, followed by coffee in the vestibule - this gives visitors a chance to be welcomed! And if for any reason you can’t make it in person, you can now join in via Zoom.
Heath Street Baptist Church, 84 Heath Street, London NW3. https://www.heathstreet.org
Belsize Square Synagogue
Services are held each Friday night and Saturday morning (as well as Jewish festivals) and visitors are likely to enjoy the choir and cantor (who leads the musical performance). Men and women sit together and after Saturday service there is a ‘kiddush’ where wine and small plates are served.
The synagogue recently welcomed a new leader - Rabbi Gotnick - from California, who hopes to reach out within the community and make the synagogue flourish. Since Covid, Belsize Square has been streaming its services via its website but, of course, if you want to visit in person, you are welcome.
Belsize Square Synagogue, 51 Belsize Square, Belsize Park, London NW3. https://synagogue.org.uk
London Central Mosque
On the edge of the Regents Park, this is one of the largest and most influential mosques in the capital. Built in 1944 and opened by King George VI, it has capacity for 5,000 male worshippers (women sit in a separate gallery) and is famous for its golden dome (easily seen from many parts of London).
Inside, the decor is elaborate, including a beautiful chandelier, huge carpet and traditional geometrical designs. There is also an adjoining cultural centre, next to the mosque. Don’t forget to take off your shoes and dress modestly for any visit!
Friday prayers are held here each week at noon, preceded ten minutes earlier by the Imam’s Call to Prayer. The mosque also hosts lectures, talks and interfaith events, as well as educational tours for students.
London Central Mosque, 146 Park Road, London NW8. https://iccuk.org
True Buddha Temple, Brondesbury
They also offer a range of Dharma activities, such as group practice, Chinese New year first incense offering and celebrations of the Buddha’s birthday. For more information about the best time to visit, take a look at their website below.
True Buddha Temple, 365 Willesden Lane, London NW2. www.tbtemple.org.uk
Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple Trust
Although Shri Kanaga is open to the public (as are most Hindue temples) please remember that it is a sacred space - as with a mosque, cover your shoulders and leave your shoes at the entrance. It is a lovely gesture, though not necessary, to bring a flower or a piece of fruit to offer to the deities.
There are no formal sermons but you are welcome to join in with the chanting of mantras. This temple is open from 7am to 10pm every day.
Shri Kanaga, 5 Chapel Rd, Ealing, London W13. http://ammanealing.org
Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple, Arnos Grove
Visitors are warmly welcomed at service here, which mainly consist of singing hymns from the scriptures. The services usually conclude with ‘Ardas’, a set prayer divided into three parts, after which ‘karah prasad’ is served - a sacramental food made up of flour, raw sugar and ghee (clarified butter).If you’re lucky enough to attend one of these services, you’ll probably be invited to the ‘Langar’ afterwards. This is the community kitchen of the gurdwara which serves meals to all, free of charge, whatever their religion, gender, caste or economic status. It’s almost always vegetarian and invariably delicious!
Arnos Grove Nanak Darbar, 36 High Road, London N11. http://www.nanakdarbar.co.uk