Posted by: dacalu | 21 June 2008

Moving On

My last Sunday in London was a blur of church experiences. I’ve come to expect nothing less, of course. I started out at 8am with the morning services at Westminster Abbey. This was the first chance I got to experience a service in the front of the Abbey (outside the rood screen). A couple elements added to this being a particularly meaningful service for me. First, it was great to have Newton’s tomb rising up to the left of the altar, especially knowing Charles Darwin lay just to the left of him in the aisle. As a scientist, it was really profound to think about the history of faith and science present in t he space. Second, the service was drawn form the 1662 BCP and I found it quite familiar. There’s something about well-worn words that comforts me and I realized that I hadn’t heard the traditional service in several weeks. Nothing against Common Worship–and I quite like many of the contemporary services at COTA, Moot, and eleswhere–still I grew up hearing things such as

“Dearly beloved,” (a personal favorite)


“who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world”

Of course, there were also things I don’t like.  I’m for new prayers.  I just realized how important the old words were for me and how deeply ingrained.  It was comforting and a good start to the day.

In order to experience something completely different, I headed off to check out Holy Trinity Brompton, or HTB as the members call it (  This was held up for me as a great and popular example of Evangelical C of E.  Many Americans will be familiar with the Alpha Course, put out by HTB.  Initial impressions were mixed.  It was fun to join into the great stream of people, surprising to see the traditional grandeur of the building (beautiful classical decorations), and distressed to see how much was covered by media screens.  The service felt very evangelical, with worship leaders holding instruments on the stage.  We had some great songs that I managed to get into.  I even waved my arms a couple times.  The racial diversity of the congregation impressed me, the preponderance of prosperous middle classers did not. We had a conversational sermon from the preacher and a very abbreviated Eucharistic Prayer (Common Worship, I’m assuming).  I guess, we lucked out to come on a Eucharist Sunday.  (Ned and Jeanette joined me for the Abbey and HTB).

I should also note a slightly aggressive heterosexuality about the advertising for the alpha course–lots of little figures of boys and girls moving on conveyor belts toward each other.  Made me a little uncomfortable.

After HTB, I visited the adjacent Roman Catholic Church.  Beautiful baroque architecture and statues.  I will say that this church pushed all the opposite buttons for me.  It really felt like idolatry with all the shrines with statues of saints.  What can I say, I’m Anglican and want something in the middle.

Next, I wandered over to the Victoria and Albert Museum (, a truly great collection of art from around the world.  I particularly liked the Golden Age Muslim artifacts and the Post Modern Japanese art.  Just across the street was the Natural History Museum (  I didn’t have much time, but had to run in.  Some really great specimens and an amazing animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex. The building is an gorgeous example of Victorian architecture.

The day wrapped up with the Moot Big Service, possibly the highlight of my emerging church experience.  We were continuing the focus on Affluenza and a bunch of people showed up.  Trine introduced the idea of affluenza and we spent the bulk of the service acting out possible antidotes.  I ran a 7 minute brief Chi Gung practice and we spent quite some time playing with play-doh.  By the end I was thoroughly relaxed and much closer to the people around me.  Thank you Moot!

After the service, a bunch of us went out for drinks and then a late supper.  By the end of the night, there were three Cotans (Me, Ned, Jeanette), two Mooters (Tim and Aaron), and one visitor from Australia.  So, an international evening.

Monday, Tim Dendy and I explored North East London, looking at architecture and grafitti and checking out the new church that Moot might move into.  It looks like a great location to attract a broad range of socioeconomic categories and provide services to the community.  Hopefully we’ll see a parallel to Abbey Arts in the near future.

That evening, had dinner with Greg and Phil, the pastoral associates for St. Matthew’s, as well as Lisa, who works in the office and one of the former Wardens.  All in all a chill last evening in London.

Coming soon: Oxford.

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