Last week (I am horrendously behind in blogging at the moment, forgive me) I achieved something of a 2014 First – if I was still keeping lists of such things. For the very first time, I had my own byline in the Church Times.
It had been on the list of ‘hypothetical things to achieve at some point’, and was partly achieved last summer when I was part of the paper’s Greenbelt reporting team. But this was an actual commission, that came about through a random combination of Twitter and a college seminar while in France last autumn.
The article, ‘In all the ways thou goest’, was on the subject of prayer while travelling, in the context of the growth of apps and websites that facilitate praying on the move. It derived some inspiration from friends who regularly pray on their commute, tweeting invitations to share requests with the hashtag #trainprayer.
What actually prompted the commission from the Church Times was a tweet of mine from way back in January, when I’d just finished writing up a hypothetical retreat for London Diocese, based around the concept of retreating on the tube. I’d risen to a challenge from one of my tutors who had speculated as to whether it would even be possible to retreat while on the tube. Surely it’s too busy and too stressful to be a place to meet with God?
For a start, I knew that people did use it for just that purpose day in, day out. Back in my commuting days, I did and saw others clutching Bibles or similar on our morning journey. I also knew that the tube has a lot of religious connections, in terms of station names and the history behind them. Finally, I figured you could use the context as a means of shaping who, what and where you prayed for.
You see most of that in the article, but as I needed to make it whole-of-UK friendly, the tube specific factoids were left out – so I thought I’d share them here instead. That way, next time you feel inclined to pray on the tube, you may want to pray into the history of some of the places on the maps above your head. See, Church History and TfL knowledge comes in handy all over the place!!
[Incidentally, I'm indebted to Morven for going through my copy of What's in a Name and marking every station that has a religious connection - not the funnest Sunday afternoon activity on a weekend in London, but she learnt lots too!]
Blackfriars – name taken from the colour of the habits worn by the Dominican Friars at a monastery on the site from the 13th Century to 1538 when it was abolished by Henry VIII.
Boston Manor – the ‘Manor’ originally belonged to the convent of St Helen’s Bishopsgate.
Bow Church – named after St Mary Bow Church, which has been a place of worship since the 14th Century.
Camden Town – this area of London was originally a manor belonging to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Canon’s Park – six acres of land were granted to the Prior of the St Augustinian canons of St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield in 1331 & were recorded as ‘Canons’ during the 16th century.
Grange Hill – the Grange was originally one of the manors that belonged to Tilty Priory, until the dissolution of the monasteries.
Highbury & Islington – during the 13th Century, the Priory of St John of Jerusalem had a manor here, which was destroyed in 1381.
Highgate – at the ‘high gate’, tolls were collected from travellers wishing to use the Bishop of London’s road across Hornsey Park to Finchley.
Hornchurch – ancient records (1222) refer to a ‘horned church’ or monastery.
Hyde Park Corner – from 1066-1536, Hyde Park belonged to Westminster Abbey
King’s Cross St Pancras – St Pancras is named for Old St Pancras church. [Which I finally visited last week and is fascinating. It definitely deserves its title of 'old'!]
Liverpool Street – a priory stood here from 1246-1676.
Mansion House – the station was built on what had been the site of Holy Trinity the Less.
Parson’s Green – named after the area surrounding Fulham’s parsonage.
Plaistow – is derived from the Old English for ‘playing place’ and was where mystery plays were staged.
Preston Road – derived from the Old English for ‘priest’ and ‘farm’. A priest is mentioned as owning land in the area in the Domesday Book.
Ruislip Manor – the area once held a priory dependent upon the Norman Abbey of Bec.
St Paul’s – named after the cathedral, which was first built in the 7th Century.
Upminster – means ‘the church on high land’.
Walthamstow Central – derived from the Old English for ‘welcome’ and ‘holy place’.
Whitechapel – named after the white stone chapel of St Mary Matfelon, which was first built in 1329.
You see, sometimes, having a geeky interest in the tube comes in very useful!