One Sunday early this month, several hundred heathens gathered outside a deconsecrated church in East London. Most were twenty-something. The girls wore long, crinkled hair and silver rings: the boys, beards and last night’s suit jackets. It was uncommonly sunny, for England.
Distracted by the weather, perhaps, or by the sight of so many young things lining up for Sunday worship, a passing car rear-ended the vehicle ahead. The crowd groaned and jeered. “Don’t worry,” a young woman called out, between tender sips of Red Bull. “You’ve got, like, a hundred witnesses!” The crowd laughed and turned inwards, leaving two piqued drivers to the earthly task of exchanging insurance information.
Soon enough, the doors opened and we shuffled inside. Near the entrance to the foyer, several church ladies had set a table with biscuits and a few iced cakes.
At our final destination, the sanctuary, we were greeted by bare walls and dull paint; presumably, everything of grandeur had been stripped away when the church was rendered unsacred. ( The Nave, on St. Paul’s Road, is now an “arts and performance space.”) Almost instantly, the rows of plastic chairs arranged before the altar were filled, and congregants began competing for floor space. A screen above their heads displayed the words “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More.” And then, our high priest arrived.