Old Donation Episcopal Church
If yesterday seemed to be full of new experiences and interesting learning, today went over the top. Half of our pilgrimage group went to London and the other half enjoyed events or friends in Canterbury. Tonight you get two reports: one from the London trip from me and the other from a special fun event that was held at Canterbury Cathedral today. Several of our group attended parts and Will Walker wrote it up.
75 minutes on the road brought us into London and our 20 pilgrims dispersed in about four different directions for the morning. Some took the “Hop on-Hop off” double decker bus that toured all the major sites of London. The guides were funny and very interesting. Others walked to the Tower of London or toward Parliament or for a tour of Westminster Abbey. Each person came back sure they made the best choice. That’s testimony to the value of London for touring.
But the best was ahead of us. Our group was booked into St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were very honored because The Rev. Canon Michael Hampel, the “Canon Precentor” (priest responsible for the liturgy side of the cathedral) gave us a personal tour. He took us to areas and gave background few have access to. This was my third tour but at least half of the elements were brand new to me.
We climbed Christopher Wren’s “perfect” staircase that is normally not open to tours. This staircase is a movie star. You’ve seen it lots of times including in Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Paddington. The original model of his design Wren produced in 1700 to win the contract to design the new cathedral filled a room 2/3 the size of our parish hall. Original famous art that you would immediately recognize was just casually filling walls. Historic traditional design was interrupted by contemporary art that all told a story and worked well. The choral Eucharist with incense and a very talented choir was the fitting conclusion. We had a terrific pub meal, including a new favorite “Eaton mess” for dessert. WOW!
One of the highlights was Fr. Michael’s caution. While the building is beautiful and notable for its architect and its remarkable history, St. Paul’s is grounded in its identity. St. Paul’s is a living church dedicated to serving and worshiping Jesus Christ. They serve as truly a church for all people in the way that Christ came for all people.
I found myself encouraged about our approach at ODEC. We faithfully honor and preserve our history and heritage, but always work to keep our mission and ministry and worship full of life. Our job is to also be a living Church for today and the future. St. Paul’s is definitely full of 1400 years of Christian history. But it is not a museum. The Spirit is alive!
We are keeping you in our prayers every day...
HOPS in Canterbury
A half-dozen or so of our pilgrims attended a celebration in honor of the hops plant, a long-time agricultural product from the Kent area and a principal ingredient of beer. The ceremony, known as a “Hops Hoodening”, took place in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. Several hundred people watched as costumed and bell-frocked participants danced and played musical instruments as they made their way into the sacred space. After a Psalter reading by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, the Vice Dean addressed the gathering.
His message was simple and direct:
God gave the world the natural bounty of wheat and barley and hops vines (and grapes!) as well as the ingenuity and intelligence to make things from them. If mankind uses these gifts in harmful ways, whether through overindulgence or abuse, it’s not the fault of these gifts from God. Rather, it’s due to Man’s sinful ignorance and careless usage of these things that cause problems.
We sang more harvest hymns and dancing by the Morris Men followed, then the blessing of the hops, brought forward by the beautiful Hop Queen and her two Hops Princesses, was performed. After we sang “Lord of the Dance”, the whole troupe processed out of the Cathedral to dance outside for quite a while longer. It was very fun and entertaining!
Peace and blessings, Will Walker