June 3, Trinity Sunday, was also the day of celebration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I toyed with attending worship at Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned, but decided against it and headed for the 11:30 a.m. sung Eucharist at the historic and beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Arriving early after train, Tube and a half-mile walk, I found Matins still in progress, but an usher suggested I sit in the back and move forward after the morning prayer.
The chairs were movable, hard molded plastic. A small kneeling cushion hung on the back of the chairs, but the rows were set so closely together that it would be problematic to kneel. The thorough service bulletin, intended for visitors with everything included, indicated we would stand during most of the service and only in one spot was kneeling even suggested. Practicality rules!
The seating area was a long way from full, but I would guess there were about 500 or 600 in attendance. What sounded like three Anglican priests on vacation seated themselves behind me and conversed jovially before the service began. The one immediately behind me, as it turned out, had a very nice and full singing voice, making it easy for me to follow the hymns.
We stood for the processional as numerous priests, deacons, acolytes and choir came in. Priests were quite royally robed in gold, deacons in red, choir in white over black cassocks. No boys choir today, but the Vicars Choral sounded wonderful.
Before the service started, the priests behind me noted that the sound system was quite problematic and mentioned some impossible sum to try to fix it. Yep, definitely problematic. Every time someone spoke, a soft buzzing sound accompanied the words along with an echo. Tough on hearing-challenged people.
The service itself was lovely, perfectly orchestrated and exquisitely sung. The message was a nicely done Trinity Sunday sermon with the primary illustration of the human inability to actually comprehend God likened to that of an oyster trying to describe a ballerina. It just can’t be done, but God has chosen to become small in the person of Jesus so we very limited humans might gain some entrance into the mystery.
Any baptized person who regularly receives communion in home churches was invited to receive the sacrament. Multiple stations around the nave, plus well-trained ushers, made for an orderly and quick reception. Gluten-free wafers were also available.
I seated myself for the 10-minute organ voluntary (Praeludium in G major) after the final blessing and recessional, but most people left before it was over. By that time, the idea of finding the loo held great appeal, so I approached a female usher and made my request.
Her response: “Yes, of course, but you still must leave the building, and go along to the left down to the crypt.”
I walked out and turned left. About 80 yards away, I saw a small door at ground level. After two sets of stairs, I turned left again, followed people into the double door entry and found myself in a large cafe with a gift shop.
Feeling sure my goal was near, I wandered through the cafe until I found the welcoming sign and joined the long queue of women who had arrived before I, waiting patiently for one of the six tiny stalls. Apparently, that is the total number of available facilities for this necessary function in the entirely of St. Paul’s.
Oh my. And heaven help the physically handicapped.
As beautiful as the service was, it left me cold. Earlier this week, I had attended a noon Eucharist at an old, beat-up, mouse-infested church where the worship area is turned into a homeless shelter each evening. There, I had sensed the power of God. Here, I saw the power of humanity.
But I left determined to walk the 528 steps to the top of the dome!
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at email@example.com .