A few days later…“Did you put on your blog about going to St. Paul’s?” “No.”
Last night, after reading what I wrote about the All Saints Day worship service, he once again asks “When are you going to write about St. Paul’s?” “I’m just not for sure how to write about it…”
So here it is, from my travel journal, Sunday, October 21, 2012.
Oh, it is so London: grey, drizzly, bleak all the while being full of color, interesting, and invigorating. The weather man actually refers to it as “another dull day in dreary London-town.” We chose to make it otherwise, no “dull and dreary” for us. We wake up to Sunday in London and we’re headed to church, which just seems so “right” to us, that we are living vivid amidst the mist and murky mire near our Tower of London locale. Months ago, when we booked this Belgium trip with our last few days in London, we planned to stay near and worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
We arrive at the Cathedral as one service is about to end, the next one is in another hour; we sit and start to absorb the worship experience. The Ushers wear suits with frock coats and vest; they look very dapper and definitely official. One gentleman Usher kindly greets us upon arrival, another one invites us to stay for the next service and makes us feel welcomed in his church home.
As the one service ends, we move to the front row, seats 1 and 2 by the center aisle, we don’t want to miss a thing (and Richard wants to be first at one of the Communion Common Cup). Richard and the “inviting” Usher visit like new friends while I pray and try to bring myself into a spirit of worship. A colorfully well-dressed lady sits next to me; we exchange smiles, “good mornings,” and a nod to our mutual church greeting of being present together. We relish this time of hushed anticipation and still ourselves to prepare for this worship experience.
St. Paul’s is an Anglican (Episcopalian) church, so I expect a more formal, traditional, “one-step-down-from-Catholic” service. I scan the Order of Worship, it feel s comfortable and familiar. It is a “Eucharist Service with Choir;” so I am looking forward to Communion and beautiful music. The priests, clergy and choir process in. I’m surprised that the Choir is only about 10 men, as they come in they hardly seem awe-inspiring. The Service starts with prayer and responses; and then the Choir sings.
I am utterly amazed by the music they are creating. It is as if each man has his own Latin words, notes and rhythm. It is a cacophony of beautiful noise like that of an orchestra warming up, yet all together they weave in and out, each voice stands alone, but still intertwines with the others. It is stunningly magnificent. Think of this Choir as an audio version of mosaics or stained-glass windows, pieces that combines to create complete images, masterpieces. Each voice is a small, independent creation finely crafted, carefully shaped, and thoughtfully placed into a work of art that has nuances of depth and storied wonder far beyond what can be grasped in a single momentary experience. I imagine God interrupting one of the Angels, going “Shh, we need to hear this” and all the Heavens are stilled, listening. Awed.
The next time music starts, I feel inadequate to make music in the same space that was just overpowered by the Choir, but the sweet lady next to me belts out the Hymn with her whole heart. I smile listening to her, she has an accent, stumbles over the English words, misses notes, has her own tempo, but oh my, does she sing from a joy-filled heart. Between the Choir and this beautiful child of Christ, all I can do is hum knowing that God is going “Shh, we need to hear this.”
As we leave the Church, the day is still grey, but with colorful hues and tones quite visible for all who have eyes to see.