Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Radicalism Thwarted by Health & Safety? Newington Green Unitarian Chapel

Stoke Newington has a long history of religious dissent and radicalism. It has been noted as a centre for Congregationalism, Quakerism, Judaism, and more recently lesbianism! Abney Park Cemetery, for example, was designed as a model of an ecumenical burial ground. Newington Green is home to London's oldest surviving nonconformist place of worship, a Unitarian Church. Former attendees include early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and republican Dr Richard Price.

Political, as well as religious dissent have long been hallmarks of this simple stuccoed chapel, and its radicalism continues. The church applied to hold Civil partnerships, making it London's first religious building legally allowed to do so. But whilst religious marriage can be held in any religious building, venues for Civil partnerships must have a health and safety audit. The early 18th Century chapel has only one fire escape, so apparently cannot get a licence for Civil Partnerships.  Revd. Andy Pakula said of the decision “I guess gay people must generate more heat than straight ones. It’s a list of pretty trivial things to wait the best part of a year for”.

Once the church meets the requirements, it will potentially reach another landmark in its long and illustrious history.

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