Religion and Tourists

Kelly drove me in to Salisbury so I could attend worship at the cathedral this morning. I left my camera home because I wanted to worship and not think about taking photos. As I walked up to the side entrance, intending to round over to the front, the greeter opened the door for me. "Shouldn't I go round the front?" I asked. "I open the door for late regulars," he replied. I was pleased to be mistaken for a regular.

Worship was wonderful. The procession of the boys choir, adult choir, various clergy and paraphenalia was impressive. The prayers were well worded, the music surreally gorgeous, communion was open and a woman preached. It is John the Baptist's day but she worked in the upcoming Anglican meeting and its struggle to consecrate women bishops.

The space is unbelievably beautiful. This is the cathedral that Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth is about, nearly 800 years old. The rows of folding chairs are surrounded by tombs, and you walk on gravestones when going up to communion. (How does it affect worship to be surrounded by the reminder of death?)

I spent the service looking forward at the stunning blue stained glass and up at the vaulted ceiling. After the service, while the organist played something by Louis Vierne, and the procession walked by, I turned to see the stunning light of the back window and walls. I heard water running somewhere so, after the organist finished, leaving that last note ringing through the building, I went to investigate. In 2008 they dedicated the most beautiful baptismal font I have ever seen. It is four sided and pours out water at each point from a mirror-like still surface, and on each side is a quote from Isaiah, "when you pass through the water...".

As I waited to greet the preacher the tourists poured in with their cameras. I will return with my good lenses tomorrow for photos.

This afternoon we visited Stonehenge, just a few miles away. It was a lovely sunny day. Theo was irritated that we could not walk up to it, that we had to pay, and that lots of people were there. (We were at Avebury yesterday in the cold rain alone. It is free and open.)

But it is an impressive thing. Who knows who built it (or laid out the chalk horse or built Silbury Hill or the Long Barrows) or for what purpose. Kelly tried to explain to Zane what the Druids think about it all. Anyway, we took photos like everyone else, ate some ice cream, and went back to our car.

As we got into the car we noticed a group of people gathering in very particular dress. The Druids were there for their worship. The lines of tourists were getting longer, but their worship would proceed in the literal midst of them all.

The line between worship and tourism is a little thin here. I spent today on both sides.

1 comment:

Catharine Larsen, MA, LP said...

It is so interesting to read about your trip; I look forward to them. Thanks.