Lumen United Reformed Church in Regent Square is close to bustling areas of the English capital: Euston Road and Grays Inn Road are both nearby, as are Euston and Kings Cross/St. Pancras tube stations. Lumen provides space, hospitality, and a sense of peace in the midst of all this.
Originally built in 1827 as “the Scottish Church in London” (replete with thistles in its art), it somewhat bizarrely had an outer façade modelled on York Minster’s grand twin towers. That building was bombed in World War II. After twenty years of dereliction, it was completely rebuilt in the 1960s, much more simply. In the new design the architectural motif of bridges was at play in the stone. Then again in the new millennium, the building underwent a further phase of life, to incorporate a café, a garden, and distinctive zen-like quiet space.
The quiet space is a tall conical shell eleven metres high with a circle of light through the roof that throws light and shadow against the towering walls. At floor level, there is a simple circle of chairs and cushions around the edge.
Right next door to a Mahayana Buddhist Peace Centre, adjacent to buildings of University College London, whose students come from all around the world, Lumen both works closely with the Student Christian Movement and is the house of worship for a Taiwanese Christian community who worship in the reformed tradition of Christian worship. Through the week, it also hosts a zazen sitting practice and Buddhist discussion. The zazen group write, “when we are sitting we do not intentionally think about anything or concentrate on our feelings and perceptions. We sit in a simple non-discriminating state where our body-and-mind is balanced and undivided. In this balanced state of non-thinking we can find our true nature” (http://londonzen.org)
Lumen is an eloquent witness to reinvention that upholds its enduring purpose to welcome persons from far and wide.
(Photography on this page by Stephen Burns.)