The Tent is an architectural statement of intent, a speck of peace within the swirling business of London’s financial district.

 

Made in Saudi Arabia it boasts Moroccan tiling, British stained glass, and rugs woven in places of conflict throughout the world. 

 

The Tent at St Ethelburga'sThe brainchild of Simon Keyes, Creative Director of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Rehabilitation and Peace, the Tent was designed to facilitate inter-faith dialogue within one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities. 

 

It has no religious adornment, instead designer Keith Critchlow drew on the universal languages of astronomy and “sacred geometry”.

 

Inter-faith co-ordinator Justine Huxley says: “The centre itself was founded by the Archbishop of London, who stood in the rubble after the building was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993, and decided that this 12th Century church should be rebuilt to house a place tasked with considering the link between religion and conflict.” 

 

Huxley says their basic currency is dialogue, and that they’ve had success in codifying how best to facilitate that dialogue: “We’ve learnt a lot about religious etiquette, participation, and creating an inclusive space.  But we’ve gone beyond finding out about each other now, and we’re learning to collaborate. 

 

“Of course there are areas of theology that are irreconcilable, a Christian will say, ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ a Muslim will say, ‘One God’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate with each other.  We want to create a space where people can disagree without violence.” 

 

Members of different faiths are encouraged to pray and meditate together at St Ethelburga’s.  Some fundamentalists consider shared devotion abhorrent.  Huxley says: “We haven’t got to the point yet where we are actively seeking people who are anti inter-faith, but by standing up for our own values we can open people’s minds.

 

“We have had evangelical Christians come here, and from the outset they were very hostile towards what we do.  But after spending time with us they suddenly got it, it was heart-warming, and they left changed.”