But now an Edinburgh church is opening its doors to allow local people and tourists of all faiths, or none, space for peaceful meditation without participating in a formal church service.
The ‘Five Minutes’ sessions on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings at Mayfield Salisbury Church in the city centre are advertised by banners outside the church stating ‘Find Five Minutes Peace Here’ and ‘Church Open’.
Mrs Jo Scott, a retired nurse from Edinburgh who has popped in for the sessions, said: “It was a great chance to be there with nothing else going on. I was able to slip in, say ‘good morning’ and just be by myself and a chance to think about things in my life.
“If there are other people there we give each other space. Occasionally there are people I know and we just exchange a smile.”
The initiative comes during 2019 Mental Health Awareness Week. Research shows that approximately 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year and stress is a key factor.
The Rev Scott McKenna, who started the sessions five months ago, said it was vital that people could find a place to get some “headspace”.
Mr McKenna said: “Many of the people coming in for some peace are not members of the church.
“They might just be passing by and spot the signs and come in out of curiosity. Others have been taking their children to clubs and chose to come in for some quite time. “Some sit for four minutes, others sit for 40 minutes.
“There are always people at the sessions but not always the same folk.”
The sessions are staffed by volunteers who operate a rota to open the church up.
Mr McKenna added that those coming in for some solitude were left to have time to themselves.
“They are not fussed over. If you come in here you are not going to be crowded by people from the church asking if you want to talk.
“Sometimes people are coming in get some headspace about something quite tender in their lives such as work difficulties or problems in relationships or their families.
“This is all about having a beautiful space in a busy, noisy city to meditate or just be quiet and silent.
“The stillness, quietness and mindfulness all dovetail with our initiatives on mental health and we see the practice of stillness and peacefulness as one simple way of helping people.”