Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Churches of England

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When I went to England in September I was simply blown away by all the architecture. On just about every corner in the villages and sprinkled what seemed every few miles in the countryside was a Church.  The pubs were just as frequent.  We’d be driving along in the middle of nowhere and boom…a pub…and a Church.  We’re not talking a little old wooden church in the woods.  Every one is made of stone with large wooden doors hundreds of years old.

I only spent five days there though I could have stayed five weeks.  It was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.  Having stayed through a Sunday I did go to Mass at an Anglican Church that belongs to the Church of England.  This is the one that I went to.

St. John the Baptiste Church, Midsomer Norton

It was the first liturgical service I’d ever attended.  The vicar was very sing-songy while reciting his part of the liturgy.  Having never participated in a service of this kind, I was lost until a woman in front of me showed me the prayer and liturgy book.  Even then I was still a bit confused because depending on what the vicar recited there were two or three options that the congregants were to respond with.  Just call me blonder than I pay to be.*grin* We sang some hymns and though the words were familiar, the tunes were completely different and no music was played.  The acapella hymns echoed off the hard surfaces of the stone carved interior.  At the time I thought I didn’t really care for the service.  It seemed so formal and rigid.  Reflecting later, though, I realize just how much I really did enjoy it.  Though I felt like a fish out of water I saw beauty in the tradition and  reverence, awe and purpose for each implement.  When the time came for the Eucharist people slowly filed out of each pew and down to the front to kneel at the prayer bench.  Even if there was no intent to partake of the Eucharist one could simply cross their arms and receive a blessing from the vicar.  I stayed quietly in my seat.

The next day was a full day of sightseeing.  I had my own personal tour guide.  We drove to a car park and caught a bus into Bath.

Bath Abbey originally founded in 675 AD as a monastery.  The detail on the stone carvings is unbelievable.
Bath Abbey, Bath England
Bath Abbey, Bath, England
Nave, Bath Abbey

Bath is only a short distance from Midsomer Norton.  It’s absolutely breathtaking!

The stained glass is something to behold.  Vibrant colors all telling a story of saints and angels and Christ.

Stained Glass, Bath Abbey

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more.  Up 217 steps of narrow, steep spiral staircase to get to the top of the spire at Bath Abbey.  In every direction as far as I could see there are church spires reaching up toward the sky.

My trip was certainly an eyeopening experience. The people there were lovely and didn’t seem hung up on a lot of the things we are here.  They didn’t appear to be sizing me up by what religion, political party or race I belong to.  They embraced me for who I am, I didn’t have to put on any airs.  Just me, and that was good enough.

Oh, I thought I’d be going back in September of 2011, but I just can’t wait that long.  So I’m leaving Friday on a jet plane…..

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7 thoughts on “Churches of England

  1. Your comment about the communion made me think of the first time I attended a Catholic liturgy. I didn't know the rules, so I unintentionally broke them during Eucharist. I walked up, took my portion of the Body of Christ, and started back towards my pew. The priest realized that I didn't give the secret password, so he ended up stopping the process for the rest of the line to chased me down in the aisle. When he caught up with me, he asked me what I did with the host. I replied "Um, I ate it." Obviously disgruntled, he turned and walked back to the front without saying a word more to me.I couldn't tell you what his sermon was about. My mind just raced the rest of the time between awe, confusion, embarrassment, dismay and humor. It was, by far, the most odd experience I have ever had in a church.I haven't made it to England yet, but I've been elsewhere in Europe. They do have wonderful churches there. I'm jealous of your trip. 🙂 Have a great time!

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  2. Have a wonderful, wonderful time! You go girl! 🙂

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  3. TWF,That story gave me a belly laugh! What did you do with the host? lolEngland is absolutely gorgeous! I am so looking forward to this.Zoe, Thank you! I plan to do just that. 🙂

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  4. Absolutely spectacular!! It something to witness such archetecture and compare it with our local Calvary Chapel held in a boring office complex. I sometimes go to different Christian churches, just for the experience. True, I posted about Simbang Gabi in Philippines, and that was a bit much.. but in doing so, I am reminding myself of a tightrope I balance on – Religion, with its liturgies, archetecture and other-wordly language, is dramatic art. It is best served when everybody in attendence knows it is dramatic art.The nearest I ever came to attending a church like one of these was when I visited St Patrick's Cathedral in NYC several years ago. I was a Christian at the time, and newly married to my Catholic wife. We attended mass, and .. . I did not care for it. It was just too too TOO much. That gigantic church was nearly empty, and it was a bit depressing. I knew it was a bit too touristy when the priest, after the mass was finished, said "The mass is finished, go in peace, you may now take photographs".Thanks for the photos and stories!

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  5. The Wise Fool says:"I walked up, took my portion of the Body of Christ, and started back towards my pew…"I did that once too. I was dating my future wife, who was Catholic, and I was attending mass with her. As an ignorant refugee from Calvary Chapel, I did not know that the elements in the Catholic Church are believed to be the literal body and blood of Jesus, and not just as symbol of him – as I believed. I was in the habit of taking the wafer back to the pew, where I could silently meditate before I ate. I did this about… oh.. 5 or 6 times before one week when the lay eucharistic minister stopped me at my seat. "What did you do with the host??" It was still in my hand and I showed it to her. "Do not desecrate the host." I did not mean to offend – so I popped it into my mouth, not knowing what her problem was. It was only later, when I reviewed my old John MacArthur booklette on the 'Heresies of the Catholic Church' did I understand what I did wrong!!

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  6. This is the very reason I sat silently in my seat. I wanted to observe what was going on because I'd never been to a service like this before and I didn't want to offend anyone nor did I want to make a fool of myself. "Do not desecrate the host." I have the funniest mental image of what I imagine you to look like popping "the host" into your mouth. I have pictures of more churches we visited that I'll post in the future. The architecture is spectacular to say the least. Religion, with its liturgies, archetecture and other-wordly language, is dramatic art. It is best served when everybody in attendence knows it is dramatic art. I agree!

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  7. Reblogged this on Out From Under the Umbrella and commented:

    I’m having a walk down memory lane. I love old buildings. And even though I’ve completely changed my views on religion, I especially love the architecture of old churches.

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