Monday, May 19, 2014

St Bartholomew the Great, the Watts Memorial, and the Museum of London

Oops, another sleepy evening, and now I'll be posting this in the middle of the night for most of you!  I'm going to be a champion walker by the end of the summer, but for now, the increased activity, constant stimulation by a fascinating city, and extra fresh air is really tiring me out!  Never in Durham would I start falling asleep around 7 in the evening!

We set off yesterday morning for St Bartholomew the Great, because I'd seen that they were singing the Byrd Mass for Five Voices at their Solemn Eucharist.  Choosing a church for the day on account of its musical offerings makes me feel just a little guilty - as if it's a concert and not communal worship - but I'm ever so glad we ended up at St Bart's, because it turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place, and I was tremendously moved.  Ididn't take any photos to share and I don't actually have much to say because I'm still trying to process what a special atmosphere they created.  Just a few hints: the church building is actually a 12th-century Augustine monastery; the congregation pews are aligned with the choir stalls, with the altar on the far end, so between these two poles, the community is an active presence; we sang chant in Latin and in English, often accompanied by organ pedal chords, which I found to be an unbelievably symbolic bridging of two great traditions; the choir was stunning, and even pulled off a Lassus double motet with only eight singers; the sermon was the best defense of religious tolerance according to Christ's model that I've ever, ever heard.

After lunch in the church's courtyard - I'm not sick of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches yet, but I am relieved that we'll alternate them with ham and cheese this week ----

Oh, I haven't explained why we're eating sandwiches all the time instead of our usual fare of leftover casseroles! The British Library has no refrigerators and no microwaves, not even for the staff. They have no electronic tea kettles either, so the poor staff can't heat up their lunches or even make tea. This sad state of affairs is actually quite sensible - these electronics could start a fire and then where would the British Library with all its priceless books be? - but it does make us extremely grateful for our department lounges back home!

Anyway, we walked around the neighborhood a bit, identifying a few pubs we hope to try (our favorite is named The Bishop's Finger) and then meandered over to the Museum of London.  On the way, we were delighted to find this!

With husband a student at Duke Divinity, and me a staunch member of the community not just through my connection to him but because I take div classes myself, we couldn't NOT take a photo of the plaque marking the place where John Wesley converted to Christianity!  Duke Div, for those less familiar with it, is a historically Methodist seminary, and the Wesleys are an important presence even today when the school is opened to other denominations as well. We thought a lot of our friends might appreciate a chance to see this.

The plaque itself stands next to the gate of Postman's Park:

And there inside the park was a place my husband had hoped to find while we were in London, the Watt's Memorial for those who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

There's husband in the corner, already reading some of the stories.

The most recent of all the people remembered here
And then after this great little detour, we made it to the Museum of London, which charts the history of this fair city since its beginnings as a settlement for prehistoric peoples and then a trading post for the Romans (twice! the first town burned down), through the Black Plague, the Reformation (I took a few photos of that section for work purposes), the Great Fire in 1666, and all the way up to today, including some discussion of London as a host for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It's a very cool museum, with a lot to see. It really makes you wonder, as well, what the people of three hundred or five hundred years from now will consider essential enough in our lives to put in a museum about the early 21st century!

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful of you to share all your experiences in London. I am thoroughly enjoying your updates, Samantha. What an incredible opportunity. My mother's family were Wesleyan Methodists. I am curious to learn more about John Wesley.