Richard Smart reports on the Merton Interfaith Walk on 13 April 2024  

It was a beautiful April day when we set out on our Interfaith Walk across Merton.  Gathering at Wimbledon station we were delighted that 100 walkers joined us for the 22,000 steps (approximately ten miles) connecting a variety of faith sites across the borough. 

The walk was jointly organised by PC Suzanne D’Cruze (Faith Engagement Officer) and Richard Smart, a local Blue Badge guide and member of Wimbledon Salvation Army. It’s now named the Wakefield Wimbledon Walk, after the late Revd Andrew Wakefield who was well known for his interfaith work and enthusiasm for Faith in Action’s Homelessness Project. His original walk had celebrated the London Olympics, so this was an opportunity to refresh the walk and raise some necessary funds for the Project. 

The first stop after catching a train to Southfields was the Fazl London Mosque. Regional Missionary Usman Butt guided us around, one of the oldest mosques in the country, a grade II listed building opened in 1926.  

Walking back through Southfields, we progressed up Bathgate Road to Queensmere Road and the Wimbledon Synagogue. Rabbi Adrian Schell and a colleague explained the Jewish faith and community and revealed the rolls of the Torah, sacred texts highly prized and respected.  

Continuing our walk down Parkside we had a glorious surprise visiting The Apostolic Nunciature to Great Britain thanks to Fr Andrew Coy, who invited us into the ‘Pope’s house in London.’  Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI stayed at the house during visits to the UK. 

Next stop was the Buddhapadipa Temple a Thai Buddhist temple under royal patronage. The walkers were greeted by the Abbott Ajahn. The murals inside the ordination hall were painted by thirty Thai artists over an eight-year period.

The walk continued up to St Mary’s Wimbledon, the oldest faith community in the town dating from the 12th century and grade II listed. Rev Susan Bolen hosted us, describing the layout and details of the church and the practices of the Anglican Christian faith.  

The last stop on the walk was the Shree Ganapathy Temple in Effra Road, established in the 1980s. More than 33 of us had made it, and we were rewarded with completion certificates. The Sai Mandir was opened in 1981, a prayer hall dedicated to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It was the first fully consecrated Hindu temple in Europe. 

More than £600 was raised for Faith in Action. Thanks to all who made this peaceful and educational walk possible.