My daughter, Zoey, 13, and I spent her holiday break in England.
We made the journey to Haslington at the invitation of our cousins, C. Alan Golden and Andy Johnson. The itinerary they planned for us took us beyond top-of-mind tourist haunts.
The first was their home — St. Andrew Tower House. The converted Methodist Church overlooks fields owned by Queen Elizabeth II. It is close to Crewe, and design elements reflect the couple’s individual and shared ministries.
Alan and Andy also own Village School House, a four-bedroom home next door. They operate School House as a popular AirBNB.com guest home. The retreat is among the site’s five-star attractions and retains many of the former school’s religious architecture.
Of the many noteworthy architectural elements shared by St. Andrew Tower House and Village School House, I especially appreciated the gorgeous staircases, which are repurposed from church pews.
The homes harken to a period of intense focus on religious life. Andy told Zoey and me the church and school were built at the turn of the 20th century during a surge in Methodism. At that time, new churches were built in the area to accommodate swelling congregations.
Today, England is often referred to as a “secularized” society. The Office for National Statistics, England’s largest independent, official demographer, conducts censuses in the United Kingdom.
According to the most recent data, 59.3 of citizens profess to be Christians. Of that group, the largest belong to the Church of England (Anglican comparable to the United States’ Episcopal Church). It is not England’s “official” religion, though it is the state church. Queen Elizabeth II is the church’s “supreme governor,” and only a Protestant can inherit her throne, according to the Church of England.
The nation’s other sizable Christian populations include the Catholic Church of the United Kingdom, Presbyterian and Methodist, respectively. In terms of population, Christianity is followed by more than 25 percent of citizens professing no religious affiliation.
Islam is the second largest religion in England, with 4.8 percent of the population. This is followed by Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism, respectively.
While England earns the “secularized” label from having more than one-quarter of the population claim no religion, it most certainly is a multifaith society too.
The intersection — and sometimes, juxtaposition — of faiths and society means some of the nation’s most visited landmarks are of popular and religious significance.
There is, of course, Westminster Abbey, a prominent feature of royal coronations and other state events. However, the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool is perhaps the best example of the nation’s state church.
According to Liverpool Cathedral records and tour guides, it is the United Kingdom’s largest church building. It also is the world’s fifth-largest cathedral in terms of volume and ties with Cathedral of Saint John (New York City) for the largest Anglican building.
The cathedral took 74 years to complete and employed the work of people of a variety of backgrounds and faiths. Today, it is a popular attraction to visitors from across the globe and a congregational home to those who worship there and perform mission activities.
For more information about the cathedral, go to LiverpoolCathedral.org.uk.