A Theological Ramble Concerning Worship and My Trip to Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Hello, my lovelies!

I’m writing this from a lovely little flat – from my bedroom in a flat in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

This is a rather poor quality photo from my Instagram story. Sorry, guys.

I can tell you that I’m having a marvelous time here in England’s capitol city. It’s busy. Very busy. It reminds me a bit of New York, just everyone speaks with an accent and it’s a lot more European. And tube sounds much more classy than subway.

Sorry, I had to.

The culture was a bit of a shock in the beginning, but I really do love London. We leave here for Oxford (eep) on Friday, and I’m savoring the minutes I have left in this beautiful place.

Oh, before I begin with the subject matter of this post, let me just show you all a few amazing things from around London…

One of my favorite things was Kensington Palace, the home of Princess Diana (I love her so much), and the childhood home of Queen Victoria. I’ve started watching the Victoria show with Jenna Coleman, and seeing Kensington was so exciting, considering the fact.

We saw Westminster Abbey yesterday, the incredible Gothic cathedral in the heart of London, and the burial place of Elizabeth I (I kissed her grave with my own lippers), Richard II, Richard III, Henry V (I kissed his grave, too, because I loved the Hollow Crown so much hahaha), Mary Queen of Scots, Dickens, Darwin, Hawking, David Livingstone, and Isaac Newton. That was amazing, as was the courtyard where they filmed a little bit of Harry Potter…anyone recognize it?

Didn’t see Hagrid, unfortunately…

I also loved the Tower of London, which was built in 1097 (WHAT??), and where my family and I saw the Crown Jewels (I felt major Moriarty vibes lolz), the medieval palace built by William the Conqueror, and the place where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. It was incredible. I LOVE medieval history.

This is me trying to look hip (which failed miserably) in front of 221B Baker Street (at least, the location for the BBC show). I’m a Sherlock mega fan, so I was very excited to be here:

And we saw the flat at 44 Eaton Square, the residence of the infamous Irene Adler (BBC/Pulver version).

That was also a pretty exciting Sherlock mega fan moment…

My phone was about to die when I took this, and everyone else’s phones had also perished valiantly before this, so I couldn’t get a selfie on time. My sister took a shot of me in front of the Woman’s house on her camera, but I’ll have to find that later.

Anyway, I’m not here to discuss how lovely London has been. It has been lovely, but I really want to discuss something that happened today at the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London.

My family and I attended an Evensong service after touring the cathedral, and it was such an incredible time to pray, reflect, and praise Christ. I’m not an Anglican, but when I set foot in that cathedral, I could honestly feel the glory, grandeur, and presence of God. I don’t believe in the veneration of Mary or the saints, but Jesus was venerated in that place, and it was real.

I was unable to record any of the Evensong performance, because it was illegal. Not illegal, just against church rules.

And I like following church rules, so there.

Haha.

Anyway, it lasted about a half hour, but that half hour, just standing in the middle of a glorious Baroque cathedral, listening to choral music and filling myself up with the beauty of Christ, was a moment I shall cherish forever.

It honestly made me think about churches in general. I’m not saying every church has to be a cathedral. But, when I stood in St. Paul’s today, it was a place where the environment actually drew me closer to Jesus. I saw him in the artwork. I saw him in the amazingness of the architecture. I saw him in the music that the choir sang. I saw him in the many people saying amen in unison.

I saw him in the three hundred sixty-five feet from the floor of the cathedral to the top of the dome. I saw him in the mosaics. I heard him in the Evensong.

I was lost in the magnificence of Saint Paul’s, and it wasn’t just how amazing the cathedral was, but how amazing Christ was.

I feel like sometimes, in America, we tend to minimize the splendor of Christ. We live in his love, surely, but we are ever discussing the grace, the love, the friendship of God.

And truly, this is essential to our faith! Christ is our friend, our love, and He extends grace to us each new morning.

However, how much do we wholly dwell on the majesty of God? His power, his might, his sovereignty? He indeed is King. Saint Paul’s Cathedral was built for him as a palace. It is a dwelling place built for a King. It was built for the sole purpose of Christ alone. A grand place for a grand God.

It echoed inside. The organs bellowed their tunes. The chandeliers glimmered and sparkled. Sunlight painted pictures on the marble walls as it streamed through the stained glass windows. It was beautiful. All of it. It was beautiful just as He is beautiful.

He is so beautiful, so worthy, so good to us. He is King, God, Savior, Father, and Leader of us all. He has the ability to stop my heart from beating, but He lets me live. He gives me the gift of love, the gift of life, the gift of laughter. He is to be worshipped, praised, feared (as you would fear a King in his presence), and respected.

As I stood under the vaulted ceilings of Saint Paul’s, I was in awe at the insanity of it all. The insanity of this immense place. I was challenged to question my heart toward God. Do I revere him just as the builders of this cathedral did? Creating so splendid a masterpiece for the worship of a God they saluted?

The Ascension. What a beautiful mosaic that was. Yes, my friends, the picture above is of a mosaic. A mosaic. A bunch of tiny stones pieced together to make a large picture. The Ascension pictured above is a mosaic.

Again, in awe.

What detail!

I like to imagine the makers of this mosaic being fueled by a fire for their maker. As they placed each stone into its ordained position, I wonder what servitude and love must have filled their hearts for the God they served.

What insignificant humans we are. Creating palaces for a God who is much too big for him. Honoring Him with our creativity because of how much we love Him.

Saint Paul’s breathes the word reverence at every turn.

Reverence.

Reverence for God, His people, His story, and His sovereignty. His strength. We bow in our small humanness to His grand holiness. We humbly bend our knees and lift our hands, crying out to Him and beseeching Him to use us.

And it doesn’t feel like slavery.

It feels good.

“Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.’ “

Genesis 18:27

It is an inglorious thing to feel like dust and ashes before the Lord…to offer up our best to the God of creation. To ask Him to look down on us and to love us. And He does, because He always has, even without our asking. He loves us, cares for us, and died for us. We have life through Him.

And St. Paul’s was a reminder today of just how immaculate our God is. How worthy He is of our praise. The lengths those builders went, the lengths the choir went, the lengths I went to worship there were long, because the God we serve is holy and is worthy of it.

Just a thought.

Cheers,

Emily πŸ™‚

P.S. I’ll post another England update in a few days. Hopefully with a London vlog. I just felt super theological and philosophical today at St. Paul’s. πŸ˜‰

9 thoughts on “A Theological Ramble Concerning Worship and My Trip to Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Add yours

  1. This is SO GOOD–and your pictures are absolutely magnificent! St. Paul’s is actually an Anglican cathedral, but the Anglicans have retained many of the beautiful High Church aesthetics and liturgies that we often associate *solely* with the Catholic Church.

    You’re really hitting on so many of the things I’ve been pondering, learning, and researching over this past year in this one post. Isn’t it amazing that we can experience Christ on a deeply personal level as our friend and personal Savior, AND YET He is also our Magnificent King and Sovereign Lord? And isn’t it just as amazing that Christians throughout the ages have honored and revered His majesty through buildings such as St. Paul’s? Like you said, not every church has to be a cathedral. For practical reasons alone, that’d be pretty expensive for smaller communities, haha! But we miss out on so much–the history, the reverence, and the lessons and imagery flowing out of all that artwork and architecture–when we pooh-pooh the old cathedrals and say, “Well, they’re just too Catholic-ish.” They are breathtaking tributes to the greatness of our God–and even *they* can’t come close to just how powerful and transcendent He really is.

    One of my greatest regrets surrounding my England trip concerns my visit to Westminster Abbey. Sadly, at that time I had been under some teachers who’d drilled into me that abbeys and cathedrals and anything else that smacked of “High Church” was BAD, and tiny country chapels and/or home churches were GOOD. High Church was cold, soulless, and reflected a distant and unloving God. Chapels/home churches reflected personal evangelical faith. I spent my first afternoon in Westminster Abbey with this mindset. Interestingly, however, that weekend we attended a Sunday service, and I LOVED IT. Whatever I’d been taught went straight out the window amid the music, the service, the prayers, and the solid, thoughtful teaching from the pulpit. So you might say the richness and beauty of “High Church” have been calling to me for a very long time, haha.

    Oh dear, Long Comment Alert XD Did you happen to go down into the Crypt beneath the Cathedral? The Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson are both buried down there.

    1. Hey Maribeth,

      Exactly!!! So true – my thoughts precisely! There is definitely a resistance to cathedrals and grand churches in America and we associate it like you said with a distant God, and we end up banning tradition altogether. It was hard when we started doing Lent and Advent as a family, because I had grown up without any of it and I had always thought of cathedrals and tradition as bad. We feel like it’s evil. But taken the way it should be, amazing places like St Paul’s and Westminster bring us closer to Christ and reveal more of himself to us!

      I loved your thoughts on this. And don’t apologize for a long comment lol. I love those.

      And oh my goodness I literally just had a conversation with my mom about this and she kept reminding me it was an Anglican cathedral and not a Catholic one! Silly me – better go fix that…thanks for your comment!!!

      Cheers,
      Emily πŸ˜‰

    2. And YES!!! Forgot to add that we did go into the crypt – Wellington’s grave was amazing! And there was a tearoom down there, too and we had some lunch, tea, and pastries hahaha

  2. Emmy,

    What a beautiful post! I loved your theological ramble — the greatest gift is to see one of my kids completely in love with Jesus…Because He is so good and loves SO good!! You’re on point my love and thank you for this post – it made me reflex my time there and how the artists, designers, creators of this amazing cathedral fulfilled their calling of pointing all who enter to see Christ, to praise Christ and to be in awe of Christ! Love you Emmers…I so thoroughly enjoyed this post…

    Love you,
    Your Momma πŸ₯°πŸ€©πŸ˜‹πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you, mama! I’m so glad you felt the same way as I did! St. Paul’s blessed me so much today. Thanks to you and dad for taking us there! I’ll always remember that! Christ is everything!

  3. Emily, this is beautiful! God is so big, and whenever I enter a place of beauty, I remember that anew. He is so sovereign and perfect. πŸ™‚
    Your pictures are amazing! (Makes me want to go to England even more πŸ˜‰ )

  4. Emily,

    I followed the link over from Maribeth’s comment on her blog, and wow… this is an amazing post!!

    First, all your pictures and experiences make me want to visit England even MORE now!! My family doesn’t seem to understand my (supposedly) recent bout of Anglophilia. I believe they think it’s a reaction to watching so much Doctor Who lately. They don’t realize that it’s been around since I first read The Chronicles of Narnia and Great Expectations in elementary school and was only fed by last year’s British Literature course and yes, I will admit it, all that Doctor Who. XD

    I love how you pointed out how well the design of worship places like St. Paul’s remind us of the majesty and glory of God, something we often seem to miss in American Christianity, especially in the more Protestant/Reformed traditions. (I know that the Anglican denomination is technically a Protestant one, but it shares so many similarities with Catholicism, at least on the surface, that one tends to mentally group it more with that one than, say, the modern Baptist style of worship.) There’s so much art and meaning involved in the architecture, the decorations, even the most practical and “mundane” things in the church… and it all manages to point back to Christ, to the Gospel, to Truth in the most amazing ways.

    1. Hi Shay! Thank you so much for your comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – I love getting good feedback. It makes posting so much more enjoyable!
      I’m an Anglophile through and through, so no shame. *winks* Charles Dickens and all that is glorious. And haha, loved how you threw Dr. Who in there at the end so sheepishly. Don’t be embarrassed, girl – British tv is the biggest hook, and for me it was Sherlock and Downton Abbey ;). I watch Dr. Who, but it’s not my favorite fandom. Still fun, though.
      And yes, your thoughts are the echo of my own in terms of the cathedral! The design, both interior and exterior, just points to the majesty of God. It blew my mind apart just marveling at it all. True, Anglican is very similar to Catholicism (they were the same thing until Henry VIII decided to break off and start his own church – the church of England, which is Anglican – because the pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife Catharine of Aragon), but there is so much we can learn from the grandeur. Like you said, there really is so much meaning in the buildings, and Western Christianity sometimes wants to break free of tradition because it’s “bad.” Whoever said it was bad? Certainly not Christ! It all points us to Christ, and that’s what traditions were made for.
      Thanks so much for your thought-provoking comment – I always love discussions after my posts! Thanks for the follow, too! I hope you enjoy my writings and rambles πŸ˜‰
      Cheers,
      Emily πŸ™‚

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