When Church History & TfL geekery collide

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.

In all the ways thou goest

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.

Tube Angel

You see, sometimes, having a geeky interest in the tube comes in very useful!

So, that was #gb40…

I am freshly showered for the first time since Friday morning and boy, does it feel good! It says a lot about my love of Greenbelt that it’s something for which I am willing to become progressively more unclean over a period of four days.

[Ok, so I started this post last night, but got distracted by my desperate need for sleep.]

This year could go down in my Greenbelt-going history as one of the best years yet. (Which, in 16 years, is a pretty good effort.) I attribute this to the combination of several factors:

  • Multiple good people. There are always good people at Greenbelt, but this year I was camping with a crowd from Matryoshka Haus, as well has having my usual group of Greenbelt camping friends around. (Though with some notable exceptions – looking at you Mim & Jenni…) Add into the mix old colleagues, friends of yore, vicar school chums, Twitter followers & followees, and a whole group of people that I met at last year’s festival and who I’ve had the privilege of getting to know better in London over the last 12 months. Good people = good times.
  • A very decent volunteer’s job. Lots of people ‘work’ at the festival – as stewards, site-vibers, youth workers, artists, bar people, the list is almost endless. I’ve worked a few years, either because my day-job was for an organisation that featured at the festival, or, on one never to be repeated occasion, as site-security for the children’s festival. (The only good thing was the walkie-talkie I was issued with.) This year however, I landed a job that turned out to be great – being part of the review team for the Church Times. [Yet another example of why Twitter’s great – I replied to a tweet asking for volunteers in a moment of unusual confidence.]
  • Things to hunt – namely, Greenbelt Bingo [blogpost about this is in the offing] and Gnomes. I actually didn’t bother with the latter as I found out about bingo first, and with the way that I do Greenbelt, it was rather more achievable.
  • The weather. The only heavy rain occurred on Friday night, while I was in the beer tent. I didn’t get wet at all and – most importantly – it was the warmest at night that I’ve ever known it at the festival. No thermals required and no lying awake freezing at 5am, willing dawn to break. Joyous.

I’m hugely grateful to the Church Times for giving me the chance to volunteer with them – it meant that I went to much more stuff than usual, and made an effort to experience a variety of activities – which turned out to be a very good thing. (Specifically, the Les Mis Mass, which deserves – and will get – an entire blogpost in its own right.) If you are a CT reading type person, my 100-150 word reviews will be unidentifiable within the Greenbelt supplement, but my name may appear somewhere, which is moderately exciting. What was also moderately exciting was my Press Pass – the only way in which it was possible to get into hugely popular events:

Press Pass