The profusion of minority faiths in a Sussex town hints at Britain’s attitudes to religion

Everything about East Grinstead seems rather ordinary. The road from the station into town is lined with a timber merchant, a dog salon and launderette. The black-and-white striped Tudor high street is more attractive, though hardly unique. But in the middle of town, an unobtrusive brick building provides a clue as to what makes the place unusual. It is the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. A few miles north sits the London England Temple, a striking limestone-clad edifice, topped with a soaring, copper-coated spire. The Mormons are far from alone: East Grinstead and its environs are home to an unusually rich array of rare religions.

Just south of the town lies the 18th-century Saint Hill Manor estate, the British headquarters of the Church of Scientology which, according to the census, had 2,418 followers in England and Wales in 2011 (the church itself has put the figure in the “tens of thousands”). A squat Norman-style castle (pictured), built in the 1960s-80s, sits next to the manor. Devotees attend “auditing”””a kind of counselling””inside.

Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic organisation, hold retreats at Wickenden Manor, a little farther out into the countryside. The Christian Scientists, who do not believe in conventional medicine, had a church in East Grinstead until the 1980s. In nearby Crowborough, the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (also known as the Rosicrucians) has a base.

Read it all from the Economist.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture