Seeing different churches in Europe has been one of my favorite experiences.
First of all, it’s overwhelming how old these buildings are. The fact that some of these buildings are older than the US is incredible to me. The styles vary, but the feeling is always the same.
I’m typically not a very emotional person, but I have teared up in almost every church I’ve visited. Sometimes I question the reason for this reaction — after all, many people argue that too many Christians get caught up in worshipping the building and pouring into that rather than focusing on the people of the church. Certainly, the people who fill the church (and those who have yet to enter) are the most important, but that doesn’t mean the house of worship can’t be beautiful.
To me, gorgeous structures I’ve seen don’t compete with God, but are a reassurance of His presence. In a way, the churches can serve as an analogy for God, especially the two that I’ve seen recently – Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Standing from the outside, it can be almost daunting because it’s so massive. Upon entry, the wonder only grows. Not only is the structure enormous, but every crevice of the church is packed with intricate details. You could stay for hours and hours and still not know all of the hidden gems. Though this wasn’t the case in the churches I visited in Germany, all of the churches I’ve visited in London (Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and chapels inside the Tower of London) have not allowed any photography.
So, the analogy? To someone who doesn’t identify as a Christian, God may simply be this mysterious, massive presence that seems harsh and intimidating simply because He is unfamiliar. Once you begin your walk, however, you get to “step inside” and have some mysteries revealed. While there is more purpose and it’s exciting, there is still so much to discover – so much so that people devote their entire lives to studying God’s word and will still never know everything, but isn’t that part of the beauty? If you noticed all of the ornate detail of the building the first tour through, that means there wasn’t much there to see.
As far as the no photography rule, I can tell you about how beautiful the inside of the church was, and I can show you pictures of the outside (because that’s allowed), but the only way to share the experience I had inside is for you to hop on a plane and see it yourself.
While I realize many people go to these tourist sites to see where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, or where famous people such as the Duke of Wellington were buried, I’m okay with that because it draws in people who might otherwise never step into a church.
I spoke of how it amazes me how old the structures are. Part of the amazement is that the practices in the church are as old as the building. The message is the same. The love is the same. As I attended the evening service at Westminster Abbey last Sunday, I was in awe at the thought of singing songs of worship to the same God that people worshipped when the church was first constructed.
This blog will go back to quirky stories of travel and obsessing over amazing theatre, but I just had to share my thoughts because even if I had pictures to show, it wouldn’t be enough.