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Solidarity with Bevis Marks Synagogue

Today Christian clergy from across City of London churches submitted a joint letter of objection to a planning application which would dramatically harm the only non-Christian place of worship in the City, the historic Bevis Marks synagogue.


Believed to be the longest continuous ongoing place of Jewish worship in the world, Bevis Marks is not only a heritage site but a living diverse community in the heart of the City. As near neighbours, the community at St Katharine Cree is working with other religious and civic institutions to oppose the building of an excessively high tower block right next to Bevis Marks.


This development will overshadow the synagogue and block out the sky: it will actually constrain Jewish religious freedom of worship at the synagogue by preventing the reciting of prayers at the appearance of the new moon, the Kiddush Levanah. As leaders of civic and religious institutions in a diverse, international, tolerant city, we are deeply worried by a regressive restriction of freedom of religious practice.


Today, clergy met with Rabbi Morris and members of the community at Bevis Marks and then walked to Guildhall together to hand deliver the letter to a representative of the Corporation. The letter is a submission to the ongoing planning consultation before committee members decide whether to approve the application.


In response to our letter, clergy have been invited to meet with members of the Planning Applications Sub-Committee to discuss our reasons for opposing this development, and to set out the ways in which we - as leaders of religious and civic institutions - want to work constructively with the City to build on its success and support its future prosperity and vitality.


The letter:


Objection to planning application 24/00021/FULEIA


We are writing as Christian clergy within the City of London to express our objection to planning application 24/00021/FULEIA affecting Bury House and Holland House in Aldgate.

We share the developer’s aspirations to ensure that any development in the neighbourhood builds up local business, invests in the local community and contributes to the City of London Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy. However, the proposed development in its current form does not account for the harmful impacts of an inappropriately tall and imposing building in this location. In particular, the reasonable concerns of the Jewish community at Bevis Marks Synagogue about this development should be respected. This development would involve harms not only to the setting of a significant and uniquely important Grade 1 listed building and heritage site in the City, but the development would actually constrain the Jewish community’s existing religious practice (by obscuring a specific portion of the sky) at Bevis Marks Synagogue and therefore directly impinge on the community’s current enjoyment of their religious freedom of worship in the City.


As Christian leaders of different communities in the City of London, we know first-hand the value which religious practice and the freedom of religion and belief has in a modern global City. There are diverse people of every faith and no faith who live, work, and worship within the Square Mile – adding new chapters to the City of London’s history of toleration and civility.


Like Bevis Marks Synagogue, our City churches are not only historically significant heritage buildings. Our places of worship are centres for living diverse communities of people who live and work in the City or who visit here as worshippers, pilgrims, and tourists. As we seek to work in good faith to support the Corporation’s aim to develop and enhance the City, we want to work with you to ensure that planning decisions reflect the needs and aspirations of existing communities who have already been contributing to making the City a worthwhile destination for centuries, and who will continue to do so for centuries to come.


We wish to express our deep concern about a potential decision which we fear could undermine the City’s ability to function as a world beating trading and commercial centre and harm its reputation for generosity and respect for all religious communities, itself a blow to the City’s competitiveness.


It is particularly disappointing and concerning that the community directly affected by this application is the only synagogue – indeed, the only dedicated non-Christian house of worship – within the City.


We call on members of the Planning Sub-Committee to reject this application and to work with us to discuss ways in which we can continue to enhance and celebrate the place of our diverse religious and civic communities within the Square Mile as part of our contribution to the shared prosperity and long-term vibrancy of the City.


Will members of the Planning Applications Sub-Committee meet with us to take this conversation forward?


Signed on the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord by the following:


David Armstrong

Rector, St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate

 

Paul Gismondi

Priest-in-Charge, All Hallows on the Wall

 

Alanna Harris

Associate Priest, St Katharine Cree

 

Josh Harris

Priest-in-Charge, St Katharine Cree

 

Laura Jørgensen

Rector, St Botolph without Aldgate

 

Paul Kennedy

Rector, St Vedast-alias-Foster

 

Bertjan van de Lagemaat

Minister of the Dutch Church

 

Jennifer Midgley-Adam

Curate, All Hallows by the Tower

 

Jack Noble

Rector, St Giles Cripplegate

 

Arani Sen

Rector, St Olave Hart Street

 

Jennifer Smith

Superintendent Minister, Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission

 

Malcolm Torry

Priest-in-Charge, St Mary Abchurch

 

Chris Vipers

Parish Priest, St Mary Moorfields

 

Marcus Walker

Rector, Great St Bartholomew

 

Philip Warner

Rector, St Magnus the Martyr

 

Taylor Wilton-Morgan

Assistant Priest, Great St Bartholomew


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