I once attended an evensong service at London’s Westminster Abbey. People have been worshipping there for a thousand years. My chair was beside a pillar decorated with a bust of poet and painter William Blake.
Blake claimed imagination was God’s greatest gift to humans.
I was right near the graves of Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, Dickens, Byron and Keats. What would it have been like to attend Westminster Abbey in the company of such literary greats? Dickens once said people can be at peace with themselves if they have tried to be gentle, merciful and forgiving- desiring to love both neighbor and enemy.
The worship hour began with the choir’s soprano soloist singing My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord. As I listened to her voice soar up into the rafters I couldn’t help but remember Elton John filling Westminster Abbey with his song about England’s Rose at Lady Diana’s funeral.
The service went quickly. We rose and sat and kneeled. We said the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed. The rector read the story of Joshua from the Old Testament and then prayed for each member of the royal family. No doubt despite their wealth and notoriety, or perhaps because of it, they need God’s grace and guidance as much as any of us do.
I walked out of the sanctuary past the graves of the first Queen Elizabeth and her sister, who was also a queen and known fondly as Bloody Mary. The siblings were archenemies in life, but they rest in peace in Westminster Abbey beside each other for all eternity.
Just before I stepped out the door I looked down and found my feet firmly planted on Charles Darwin’s tombstone. It seems ironic that Darwin whose evolutionary ideas so many churches have railed against, is buried in the world’s oldest and most famous church.
As I exited the wrought iron gates around Westminster Abbey I looked at the blessing engraved on the outer wall of the church.
To the living-grace
To the dead-rest
To the world- peace
I quietly whispered- Amen.
Other posts about churches…….