Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sunday 23rd March - London - Westminster Abbey

We were entertaining some American work colleagues who were over on business for a few days. They were keen to "see London", and in particular "see a castle" so we had directed them towards The Tower of London for Saturday, when they were sightseeing by themselves. They managed to fit in an open-top bus tour, but discovered that The Tower of London completely filled the rest of the day, apart from catching a river boat back to the station.

On Sunday, we collected them from their hotel and caught an early train, as one of them was keen to attend church. The obvious choice seemed to be the 10 am service of Matins in Westminster Abbey. What5 a brilliant idea!

We arrived at 9:30, walking up from Victoria Station (how I wish I had put more than four layers of clothes on), and were directed, past the graves of Elgar, Purcell and other eminent composers to seats in the Quire (memories of the old prayer book; "in quires and places where they sing...").

http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/highlights/the-quire

Do you think that the candle-stick-shaped lamps everywhere are Real Gold? They have hallmarks...

None of the clergy or choir walked anywhere without being preceded by a robed warder (verger?) bearing a stout stave with a significant chunk of brass or silver or gold atop. Three impressive persons wearing long red cloaks were lead to their seats nearer the altar. Four enchanting little boys, wearing the red cassock but not the white surplice or ruffs were lead to their seats just in front of us, where, sitting all by themselves, they behaved impeccably. I wish that the children I wrestle with every day could have seen them. Then the clergy and choir arrived, filed into their places, bowed as one, and gave their full attention (mostly, some of the boys were a little more "relaxed", shall we say) to the work ahead.

So we listened to sublime, soaring, world-class choral singing, every word, every note perfectly in place. There were psalms, and readings, responses, prayers, there was sitting and standing and facing east and kneeling, all clearly set out in the service sheet.

The choir left just before the sermon and final hymn, (excellent sermon, part of a series based on books by C S Lewis, and today taken from "A Grief Observed).

As we headed through poets corner and along the cloister towards the café we could hear the soaring voices of the choir rehearsing for the next service which due to start in a matter of minutes.

File:Westminster Abbey cloisters looking towards the Houses of Parliament.jpg

The disadvantage of visiting the Abbey on Sunday is that it is closed for sightseeing - the advantage - the wonderful, wonderful church services that anyone can go to.

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