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Controversial “Ark of the Covenant” church gets go ahead in Hackney

PUBLISHED: 14:02 13 June 2012

Ethiopian Church

Ethiopian Church

Olivia Arthur

Controversial plans to turn a “rare example” of an Edwardian cinema into a replica of the church which claims to house the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia have been given the green light last week by Hackney Council.

Around 100 supporters, parish members and congregation of St Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox church were over the moon last Wednesday night with the result at the council’s planning committee.

They say they have been searching for their own place of worship for 39 years.

The façade of the heritage building which lies in the Clapton Pond conservation area will be altered so it resembles the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Ethiopia’s Axum, where it is claimed the Ten Commandments are inscribed on the Tablets of Law.

The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre (FCCT) were not so happy however, as they have been campaigning for five years to restore what they say is one of Britain’s oldest purpose built cinemas to its former glory as a cultural centre for the whole community.

But the Orthodox group said the building was never a purpose-built cinema and had been a brewery and a function room for the pub next door, before it was reconstructed as a cinema in 1910.

The cinema closed down in 1979, but was reopened three years later as nightclub Dougies, which was renamed the Palace Pavillion.

Following a series of street shootings involving patrons of the club which led to the area being dubbed the “Murder Mile,” its licence was withdrawn in 2006.

The congregation celebrated in the adjoining church, St James, on Saturday, sharing prayers, songs and sermons.

They must now raise money to pay for the renovations, and hope the Queen might attend the opening ceremony once it is completed.


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