Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UK Trip Day 3: St. Paul's Cathedral

There is a memorable moment in the documentary film "My Architect" in which a Bangladeshi architect who worked with Louis Kahn weeps as he speaks about the Parliament Building in Dhaka. Twelve years ago, I remember getting teary upon first encountering St. Paul's as it suddenly made its massive appearance right after I got off the Tube station. That such a building could even be conceived, let alone built, struck my heart.

This time around I was similarly moved, but through an extended time in contemplation "reading" the gospel message through its interior layout and design, and being deeply reminded of God's grace and glory. That experience, a gift to us through the insistence on the church's part to keep St. Paul's a working "House of God" despite its capacity to draw crowds of tourists (through the PA system, a chaplain invites all visitors to pray together hourly), and the fact that our jetlagged kids decided to nap while we were at the church, was perhaps one of the highlights of our time in the UK.

We ended up spending 4 or 5 hours at St. Paul's that day, including a time of worship as we attended the choral evensong (a sung Eucharist) service, a refreshing way to worship for non-Anglican's such as us. The sound of the organ and the voices of the choristers made it seem like the building itself was emanating sound, while the incense that filled the interior volume added an incredible sense of awe (and surprisingly, intimacy) to the experience. And despite its stature as the Anglican mother church of London, we felt incredibly welcome, and were reminded of the fundamental importance of hospitality as it relates to worship.

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