Sunday worship

This morning, Regan, Michael, Dr. Calhoun and I visited St. Mary’s, an Anglican church at the heart of town. As we walked up to the church, echoes from its many bells rang in our ears. St. Mary’s was built around the year 1210, and remains one of the oldest buildings in Cheltenham. Stone walls and gorgeous stained glass made this worship experience completely unique – and extraordinarily special. As we entered, we weren’t quite sure where to sit, as this first service was more traditional and fairly small. Before I realized what we were doing, our group plopped down in one of the front rows.

Much to my delight, the music consisted entirely of hymns accompanied by a pipe organ. Although I only knew one of the hymns (which, incidentally, was written by someone from Moody Bible Institute), it was a very enjoyable worship experience. It brought such warmth to my heart, to hear people singing praises to God, in British accents, in such a classically beautiful building built for the sole purpose of giving Him glory. It made me think about what it will be like in Heaven one day, when people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will gather and sing praises before our awesome King! Mmm…it gives me wonderful goosebumps. :)

We were blessed to have the opportunity to participate in communion this morning. It was unlike any communion I’ve taken before, but it also seemed extra special. Row by row, we went up to the front of the church and received a piece of bread, and then sipped from a communal glass. Because we were sitting in the front row, we were supposed to be the first ones to go up to receive communion. Since we had never done this sort of thing before (Baptists, you know…), we remained awkwardly seated. Fortunately, one of the sweet ladies in the congregation gave us some instruction. The rector and his wife, who were serving communion, were also incredibly kind about our blunders, and couldn’t have possibly treated us more lovingly.

The entire process of communion – indeed, the entire service – was very methodical. However, because the experience was so new to me, it held loads of novelty, and I felt like I was able to see the deeper meaning in the liturgical practices. After a while, it might be easy to go through the same motions without thinking about them, but I think that issue can happen in any church. This was a wholly enjoyable and spiritual worship experience, and I felt blessed to participate.

After the service, we Americans stood around talking amongst ourselves for a few minutes. However, in that short period of time, at least five different members of the congregation came up to us, welcomed us, and invited us to the back of the sanctuary for tea, coffee, and biscuits. It was the most welcoming church I’ve ever visited! The tea was excellent (no styrafoam cups here…it was all cups & saucers & fantasticness), and the people were so incredibly kind. I’m usually a fairly quiet person, but after church today, I had conversations with at least five different British folks (and one lady from Maryland!). My favorite was a lady who came up behind Regan and I, wrapped her arms around our waists, and exclaimed (in a very happy, proper, British manner), “It’s so nice to have some people here under the age of seventy!” She was adorable. Indeed, we were almost certainly the only people in the building under the age of fifty, but that age gap added to the experience. I wouldn’t mind visiting St. Mary’s again next week, especially since I probably won’t get to many churches like that back home.

This afternoon was very chill, consisting mainly of homework and skyping family, but it was enjoyable. Now, to prepare for class tomorrow!



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