Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Westminster Abbey Communion Service

We decided to make our London holiday memorable by attending a church service on Sunday. It was a toss between St Martins in the Fields (in Trafalgar Square) and the Westminster Abbey. The choice of the Abbey was easy. It is over 700 years old and where English kings and queens were crowned. It is not every Sunday that any visitor to London can worship there, and partake in the Holy Communion.

As the service begins early at 8am we decided to leave our apartment at 6.45am to be ahead, giving some allowance of losing time along the way like missing a train connection on the London tube or losing our way to the Abbey. As fate would have it we couldn't get to the nearest tube station, the Westminster. Instead we had to disembark at the station prior to that, the Waterloo, due to engineering works, which means maintenance, on the connecting line. Asking for directions we walked towards the Abbey across the Westminster Bridge. There weren't many people at that time and the Elizabeth Tower (which housed Big Ben, the clock bell), the London Eye and the House of Parliament beckoned to our cameras. We fished out our Canons and my HTC smartphone and snapped away. The Thames was particularly quiet with just two or three barges coasting by. It was getting close to 8am and I reminded my daughter we mustn't be late for church.

What we thought was the Westminster Abbey was actually the St Margaret Church. We were misled by the Welcome to Westminster Abbey signboard outside. The real Abbey where the service is being held is the adjourning bigger cross-shaped building. There was no sign of worshippers and we were looking for the entrance. We passed the visitors entrance and walked further and spotted a lady greeter donned in a traditional costume at a smaller gate. We enquired and she replied, yes, the worship has just started inside. She asked what we had in our bags and let us in. At the entrance door a male usher also in traditional gown led us into a chapel like sanctuary with a capacity of maybe 100-150 people. I made a quick check that this cannot be where kings and queens were crowned. It is solely for public worship services. I counted about 80 attending this service, mostly whites and few Chinese. Photography and video recordings were prohibited. As we sat down the priest was reading the Service of Word and Table 1 with the congregation responding. I realized it was almost like the one we use in our Methodist church communion service. Word for word I think it is almost 98% similar. Perhaps it was because Methodist church was an offshoot of the Anglican church (Westminster Abbey is Anglican). When the invitation was given we went forward to the communion railing under the guidance of another usher to receive the communion wafer and wine (which represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ who died for our sins), the wine partaken either by sipping from the goblet or by dipping in our wafer. We chose dipping. After the 'feast' was over the service ended without any message from the priest. It took about 30 minutes to conclude the service. I was looking forward to hearing a message that Sunday but it was not to be. Still the significance and remembrance of this time of celebrating our faith in Jesus Christ couldn't be taken away.

We left the Abbey to take photos outside and then moved on to Parliament Square, Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, Household Calvary Museum, Trafalgar Square and beyond this Sunday morning to enjoy the London weekend, including our first visit to the Regent's Park. The weather was picture perfect and August 3, 2014 permanently etched into my memory.

1 comment:

tony said...

This got to be an interesting highlight. I make sure to visit a foreign church and have opportunity to be in one back in 2010 in a Catholic Mass on Easter Sunday in South London. Then another one in NYC Cathedral Church in Park Ave. Visiting the big one like Westminster Abbey definitely give a feeling commoners are welcome as well, so nice memory!


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