During my first week of traveling on my own ever, I wandered into a little mosque on a little corner is Istanbul. I stumbled upon this mosque literally by accident. It was so quiet and when I went inside the kindest gentleman let me explore. I had such a great spiritual experience here.
Inside, I met one man who was so humbly praying. It touched my heart deeply.
I’ve always felt that prayer is such a natural human experience and this man and I found it to be common within our religions. People pray when they don’t know what to do, when they are done struggling for answers, when they are ready to submit themselves to something higher and be something better.
Traveling has opened my heart and mind to how others outside of my own religion worship and find betterment in their own beings. And…While not every good person I’ve met or will meet subscribes to religion or finds resonance with a heavenly deity, I have come to regard sacred and holy spaces of others as conduits for good. I’m constantly fascinated by how and where others choose to worship and be inspired because of the high regard I hold to my own.
A wonderful experience in Thailand, here.
And so was my experience with Westminster Abbey on my first Sunday in London. Now unfortunately for you, the church does not allow for photographs during a worship service. And because I believe in respecting those wishes we’ll have to go on stock photos and memory here. All photos were taken outside the chapel and around the grounds or in the cloister areas.
Along with our friend Andrew, Daniel and I headed over to the church for the 3PM Evensong. You can find a full list of their free services here.
The place is a cabinet of curiosities and a wonderful memorial to the fascinating history of the UK. While many monarchs are buried here, the place holds significance in the final spot of artists and writers and poets Chaucer, Henry Purcell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens; scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Although they are buried elsewhere, you can also find a small tablet tribute to Jane Austen and one to the Bronte sisters. Endlessly the church holds so many tablets and busts and pieces of art representing great men and women in history. A list of memorials and graves in the Abbey can be found here.
We sat in folding chairs between the choir and the Officiant and listened to a beautiful, if not haunting organ prelude before the choir began filling up the room. A great stained glass window let in the sun before us as the church taught me another spiritual lesson.
I pondered on the mass of graves and tributes of great influencers in history and the beauty of the church with its Gothic ceilings and intricate furniture.
This Abbey has seen a lot of change from when the space held the original church 1052 and then when what is nearest to the present day church was built in the mid-1200’s. It’s seen a lot of monarchs and gone through the Puritan raids and has lost the independence it once had as a church (today it is neither a Abbey nor a Cathedral but it belongs to the monarchy to do with whatever they see fit, seeing as the Queen is the head of the church as well).
The great consistent feature of the church is that it has been a holy place of worship for many less important people.
In me, it inspired awe. And I imagine it has inspired awe in many souls. It is a reminder to me not of over decadence as maybe people might criticise places of intricate worship to be, but that when we give our best to God, whether it be in the arts, in science, in architecture, in worship, in kindness, we allow others to marvel His work.
We allow others to worship and marvel when we give our best forward to others.
To me, in my faith, Temples are the highest and most important places of worship and when my church spends money to make them as beautiful as possible it is in the service of others who wish to worship and be joined with their families.
Since I’ve been in London a bit longer I’ve been able to explore other cathedrals around and see smaller parishes that spark the same thoughts of reverence.
As I listened to the Reverend’s sermon I gleaned a bit of wisdom about being alive in the fullest sense of the word:
“if you are lifeless, ask the spirit…and if you can believe it, you can find life.”
“God can make [you] like one of the great pillars in this church”.
He alluded to the rocky history of the Westminster Abbey and left us with this:
“A church physically falling down is perhaps in the best place to be built up again by God.”
Maybe I take things a little too seriously when maybe things exist to wow tourists…but maybe, I guess, I’m glad we had Andrew that day to remind us, as we sat in our folding chairs and neglected to look down…
“How rude, you guys were sitting on a dead guy.”
How to get there:
- Take the District Line to Westminster and exit through Entrance 2
- Cross the street to get to the Winston Churchill statue and you’ll pass the Westminster Palace and St. Margaret’s church
When to get there:
- Give yourself 15 minutes to be situated and seated before the service starts to enjoy the organ prelude which on its own is worth visiting. They continue letting people in throughout the service but you’ll get the full impact of the service by arriving early. You’ll also get to walk through most of the building (guided by ushers and rope) and get a good seat. Daily services here.
Free of charge! If you’re visiting London on a budget and participate in a free service first, you might feel more strongly for or against the £17 entrance fee for student depending on your draw to the building and its history.