Evensong? More like Evenshout!
(Posted as we fly from London)
I almost had us go to Cirque de Soleil last night in London. We would have missed an incredible experience. We had only 24 hours scheduled in London and I’d seen that Cirque de Soleil was going to be at Royal Albert Hall. But tickets were going to be $90 each and the seats, even at that price were behind pillars or in the 14th balcony. So I convinced myself that it would be just as good to go to Westminster Abbey and look at monuments to the dead. Admitedly it had something to do with the fact that the Abbey only cost about $18.
So it’s a drizzly gray January evening, perfect London weather. We came up out of the underground right in the shadow of Big Ben. Or, we would have been in its shadow had there been any shadows. We ducked through traffic, in the rain, past some protestors huddled in pup tents, and into the magnificence of the Abbey. From Elizabeth I to Handel, they’re buried or commemorated here. From Shakespeare to Mary, Queen of Scots. Wesley didn’t get in because he was too problematic, but Darwin did, go figure.
At any rate we gawked and gaped and gasped at all the dead whose names we recognized, and pretended to know those whom we didn’t.
So its 4:30, closing time, and Yvonne notices a poster that the choir is singing at 5:00. So we take a seat and they ask us if we’re there for Evensong and we say, “but of course, my good man.” So they take us through the blue gate to the Quire, which turns out to be their way of spelling “choir.” And they seat us, about 50 of us, in the Quire and pass out psalters and the liturgy.
An hour before, I’d been admiring the carved wooden stalls of the Quire and now I’m sitting in one. I would have been only slightly more surprised had they asked me to preach.
It’s all very solemn and still, dark now, with the rain against the slate roof arched high over us. Right over there is where Elizabeth II was coronated in ’53. And right over there are King James’ bones, turns out his last name isn’t “Version” after all.
The quiet of the Quire is now penetrated by the vicars singing as they march through the Nave, brushing past us in fluttering robes, and sit 12 feet away, their voices filling the cavernous space of the Abbey.
And then the reading from Isaiah, and I John and the Our Father and the Collect. I worshipped the King in the company of kings and queens, or at least their bones. I know I’ll never have such an opportunity again. What a privilege to enjoy the sounds and visuals of Evensong in the Abbey. I was moved beyond description.
But it wasn’t because of the Abbey, it was because of the King. I would have praised Him at Cirque de Soleil, too. I would have marveled there at His wonders and creativity.
I don’t care if it’s a cottage or a seashore, a high-school gym or a streamed service on the internet, the place is sanctified by the King, not by the arches, statues, transepts or altars.
He is the King, worthy of our bended knees, shouts of gladness, and quiet submission.
Circus? Abbey? Wherever we are, we’re in the Quire.
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