Hello from England! Yes, we made it safely to the land of our fathers and are having a blast exploring our new home. Our first guests were Tim’s sister and niece who came to town just two days after we hopped the pond ourselves. Of course we set off immediately to London to see the iconic sites and start exploring some of the best that Britain has to offer.
One of our first stops in London was to the incredible Westminster Abbey. Here is some history from the Abbey website:
Westminster Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day.
The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon saint still at its heart.
A treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts, Westminster Abbey is also the place where some of the most significant people in the nation’s history are buried or commemorated. Taken as a whole the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.
As incredible as it is from a historical standpoint, I was most interested in its primary function, that of a house of worship. To get a better feel for the Abbey and the Anglican Faith, I took our family inside to participate in Evensong.
From the moment we entered the enormous edifice, the children could feel that this was different from the other sites we visited that day. The music from the incredible pipe organ rang out from the organ loft above as we filed past the monuments of historically significant Englishmen and women.
Once in our seats, I took a moment to look through the program for the service and noticed a few things instantly familiar to most anyone from a christian background. The Lord’s Prayer, select readings and music taken from the books of the Old and New Testament, and even many of the statements in the listed Apostles’ Creed are all a part of my own religious language.
As the service began, we stood while the choir and clergy entered. I remember learning somewhere that the clergy wear different robes at different times of the year. After the services I googled it and yes, the priests do have different vestments that correspond to the liturgical year. The green robes worn during this particular service symbolized hope, everlasting life, fidelity.
The choir sang several pieces as part of this primarily choral service. I later came to learn that the music of Evensong consists of three main pieces, the Psalm, the Magnificent, and the Nunc Dimittis. The Psalm can be any of the many psalms in the Old Testiment, but if often chosen to go along with the other readings. The words of the Magnificent and the Nunc Dimittis are always the same and are taken from the account of Mary and the Angel Gabriel and Simon at the temple respectively. While the text is always the same, the music can be different with thousands of different compositions to choose from.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Evensong and look forward to learning more about it in the future. From the soaring music to the familiar readings from the Holy Bible, I gathered faith from this sacred service in this ancient sacred space.