It’s Sunday morning on Upper Street in the heart of London’s secular, left-wing Islington. The shops and cafés are doing a lively business and the pubs have opened.
But outside the portico of a handsome Georgian church stands an anachronistic figure. His white surplice flapping in the wind, vicar Simon Harvey is intent on luring shoppers into his Sunday service.
He is surprisingly successful. With a smile and a welcoming word for everyone, by 11am Harvey has gathered more than 100 worshippers inside St Mary’s Upper Street.
It is a mixed congregation: a mixture of young and old, black and white, the respectable middle class and the very poor. City bankers mingle with asylum seekers.
There’s a choir in the church, and plenty of children, who are taken downstairs to their Sunday School classes shortly after the service begins. The hymns are rousing and cheerful. Many of the congregation even appear to believe in God, not something that can by any means always be taken for granted in the Church of England. Read more...