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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The United Kingdom (01/22/09)

TITLE: God & the Golden Thread
By Paul Chappel


The Bishop of Bath and Wells, resplendent in his robes interwoven with gold thread, was there to celebrate the Transfiguration. It’s hard to be jaded, but after a few weeks of study at Clare and Kings Colleges, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, services of worship had become rather ordinary to me. We’d been to St. Paul’s in London and even been allowed to sit in the choir stalls, and tour the building.

Nearly every day we’d worshipped in some manner or another, so a Sunday morning service in Kings College Chapel seemed like it had nothing unusual to offer. Then the Bishop came floating by, looking like a remnant from the coronation of St. Edward the Confessor, in robes that would have impressed Solomon and Joseph. It took my breath away. All through the service, I could only stare at the bishop. His robes seemed to get grander, if that is possible, as the service progressed. As the choir, in Anglican Chant, sent a psalm down to us from their stalls, and up to heaven, all eyes were on the men and boys of the choir. Well, all eyes, that is, except mine.

Kings College Chapel was commissioned by Henry VII, father of the infamous and glorious Henry VIII. Indeed, the latter Henry completed the work, as his father didn’t live to see his vision of a great collegiate church at Cambridge completed. This building has survived the Civil Wars of the United Kingdom, the Protectorate, the Blitz, and many other challenges before and since. From the outside, it looks dark and brooding, right on the river Cam, with punters moving past and under the Clare College Bridge. Inside, though, the chapel is a riot of light and colour. The medieval windows glimmer with hues that have illuminated divine worship for hundreds of years. All around, you feel as though this is what heaven might look like – statuary of the saints and great people of the Realm, windows meant to teach and impress, with the stories of the Bible everywhere, and the carvings and reredos that inspire awe and wonder.

As the service got to that most personal stage, the communion, we students were lined up to kneel at the altar. With both knees on the marble steps that have held kings and queens, archbishops and saints, I looked up to see the great Reubens Adoration of the Magi, which is even more imposing than it looks from the pews. Ancient architecture with a classic masterwork made my head swirl in wonder. Then, quiet as a church mouse, the Bishop of Bath and Wells came around and offered me Christ’s body and blood, along with a word of benediction. “It can’t get any better than this.” I said to myself.

I don’t remember getting back to my place in the stalls, but I shall never forget that moment of the holy here-on-earth, of the wonder of the Resurrection, and of that personal moment with God in the midst of inspired art, architecture, and music.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 01/29/09
I think the modern American view of building "utilitarian" churches only, sometimes misses the beauty and inspiring reverence that can be held in a structure like this one which was built for worship. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of this wonderful church and the way it inspired you that day.
Jan Ackerson 01/30/09
Oooh, I've been there, too! (See comment on previous story). At the Bishop's Palace in Wells, there's a plaque that tells that one of the bishops there wrote the words to the Doxology ("Praise God from whom all blessings flow...") Thanks for bringing back the memories.
Anne Linington02/01/09
This is beautifully written, and draws attention to how master craftsmen, artists and musicians can aid worship; but the simplicity of bread and wine
re-interprets Christ's death, resurrection and coming again.
Karlene Jacobsen02/01/09
This is really well-written. I love the descriptions and the reference to the feel you got when seeing it all.
Gregory Kane02/03/09
A great advertisement for the Church of England at its very best. Henry VIII may be better known for his six wives, but he birthed something very special in the hotbeds of the Reformation, a process later given lasting form and structure by his daughter Elizabeth.