My favorite thing about being in England–beyond pretending that I don’t have any obligations on the other side of the Atlantic–is that it’s actually spring here and it’s both pleasant and possible to walk everywhere. In London and in Paris, I started getting weary of all the walking, in part because my trusty Dansko clogs somehow betrayed me and started to hurt my feet. They don’t seem to absorb 15 miles of sidewalk shock a day very well. But now I’m back in Canterbury on a more moderate walking schedule, wandering around the small town center and up around the hills to see what my mom calls “spare ruins”–castles and churches and things that go mostly unnoticed in the shadow of the cathedral. We went to a Taize service (still not really sure what that is) last night at St. Martin’s church–the oldest church in England still in use. It was a wedding present from the Pagan King Ethelbert to his French wife Bertha 1400 years ago. I was not overwhelmed by the service, but I did like that the clergyman encouraged worshippers, in the moments of silence between chants and readings, to “listen” to the ancient church because of all it has to say. Things like that don’t even seem corny to me when you’re in a building that makes the beautiful 18th century graves outside seem new in a way that’s largely impossible in the US.
I’ve been to church twice on this trip. That’s definitely more than I’ve gone in the past year. At the service last night, they ran out of both songbooks and seats. Overcrowding in churches is not a problem that I often encounter on my infrequent, and often regretted, visits to various CS churches across the country. Perhaps I’d go more often if I could find something circa 600 AD.