Day 5, Sunday, April 29th
The word for today is “contrasts”. We visited two different churches, one in the morning and one in the evening and they were so very different. The morning service was at a Charismatic Anglican Church and the evening service was a High Anglican Church associated with Merton College.
The morning service worshiped with a full band, including drums, guitars, piano and bass. The evening brought a Pipe Organ, chanting Chaplain and full choir. Dress in the AM was decidedly casual while collegiate gowns were worn by many attendees in the PM. Seats in the earlier service were chairs bolted together to form rows, while the evening had us sitting in divided high sided seats (I felt like the Queen) that lined the side walls of the sanctuary. We were given “reserved” seats as Michael was a visiting fellow of the college. After the morning service we were invited to join them for coffee, while we sipped wine after the evening gathering.
Both of the churches were similar in appearance and age, however, St. Aldates (the AM church) had taken out all of the wooden seating and put in a stage and padded chairs. They had a complete audio-visual set up including state of the art sound system, and TV monitors to allow people in all of the crannies of the building to be involved in the service. I took off my shoes because we had been standing up for a long time and found that they had heating in the flooring!!! Merton Chapel had no sound system (or heating) and was lit mostly with natural light and candle chandeliers…it was fairly hard to see by the end of the service.
There were however similarities that are found anytime that God is worshiped. The focus in each service was on God and the Bible, and each service encouraged us to apply the teachings to our daily lives.
The speaker in the morning service was a missionary from Singapore and he encouraged Christians to get out of their easy comfortable life and to make themselves uncomfortable for God. In the evening service, we had the privilege of hearing Mr. Terry Waite speak about the need for peace to reign in our world. You will probably remember that he was held hostage in Beirut from 1987 to 1991. We had the opportunity to meet him after the service and found him to be sincere, quick to laugh, and strong in his faith.
We were also introduced to the Warden (Head) of Merton College and invited to come to the fellows dinner next Sunday after the service. Although she first appeared fairly stuffy, she went out of her way to make us feel comfortable and to encourage us that we were not expected to dress as formally as the other fellows (what a relief!!!).
One funny note…..I read some information about St. Aldates church that said that, some years ago, they had discovered a cemetery on the church grounds. When they started excavating the graves (in order to renovate), they found that they were encased in lead which indicated that they held plague victims. Apparently they had to call in the Hazard materials team to clean up the property before they could begin their building.
A fun day!!!!!