Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Crazy Providential Day at St. Paul’s

Monday, I took a much needed day off to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On the pleasantly crisp sunny day, I was first eating lunch in Pater Noster Square when I noticed an ominous dark cloud between the buildings. I knew that wasn’t weather; something had happened. I wondered if people would soon be running by in a panic.

But I finished my lunch, then walked over to the cathedral. I was just inside, about to pay for a ticket, when we were informed that a bomb had gone off, that no one could go in or out of the cathedral, and that we were to go into the crypt.

So I looked around in the crypt a while, then noticed it was getting less crowded. So I went back up and found out that it was a warehouse fire near the 2012 Olympic site, not a terrorist bomb.

A little later on, I was on a tour when the fire alarm went off, and the cathedral was evacuated. Outside, three fire trucks drove up, but there was no fire. But they couldn’t get the fricking alarm to turn off either. So the cathedral was shut down for the afternoon.

That wasn’t too bad though. I walked around and saw things I might not have otherwise, like the Millennium Bridge and two small churches. It’s something how many smaller old churches are near St. Paul’s.

The alarm was such a problem, though, that at one point, staff thought Choral Evensong that evening was going to be cancelled. Now that would have been a serious bummer. That’s a big reason I chose that day to come. But while I was talking with staff, word came that Evensong was on.

And it was a glorious service. The boys (It was only the choristers singing that night.) were a bit off and seemed not to know some of their parts very well. Perhaps their practice was cancelled because of the alarm. But they still sounded wonderful in the amazing acoustics of St. Paul’s. And hearing Revelation 5 read while looking up at the apse which so well portrays Christ in glory was . . . well, glorious.

So it was an excellent day after all in spite of the false alarms.

There was one other way in which the day was providential. On Mondays, I normally go to Magdalen for Evening Prayer. It’s the one choristers-only service among the three Oxford foundations, so I automatically go there then. Well, Tuesday morning, I noticed that Magdalen didn’t have its usual Monday Evening Prayer but a Eucharist for Affirming Catholicism instead. If I hadn’t gone to London, I likely would have unknowingly walked right into that.

Now that scares me more than any bomb or fire alarm!

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