what to do on Sunday morning in London

While not for everybody (nor apparently for most people, judging by the attendance), here's my advice for anyone seeking the most fabulous experience possible in London on Sunday morning: attend Matins, the service of morning prayer offered daily at 10 a.m. at Westminster Abbey.

My previous visit to Westminster Abbey had been a purely tourist experience. I bought a ticket, queued up to enter the church, and walked through the imposing sanctuary. I was amongst throngs of tourists, observing the soaring gothic arches, the stained glass windows, and memorials to the notables buried there.

Today's experience transcended "my tourist visit" by several orders of magnitude. Claire and I arrived a bit more than 30 minutes early for Matins, the traditional service of morning prayer. We stood with a small number of other worshipers in front of the main gates. The gates were opened at 9:30, and we were welcomed to Westminster Abbey. No admission charged (normally 22£), no tickets needed, we were greeted as worshipers.

Tip: do come 30 minutes early as the early arrivals will be seated in the Choir, adjacent to the Abbey Choir.

The service included a Prelude and a Postlude, both masterfully performed on the Abbey's pipe organ, and a quite moving, contemporary musical setting of Morning Prayer. Several psalms were chanted. We heard an Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 49 and a New Testament Lesson from Luke 12. No homily, but the lessons were read so meaningfully that the Scriptures were allowed to speak for themselves. And, yes, an Offering was received, one to which I gratefully contributed. And only worshipers are in the Abbey on Sunday mornings; there's no hubbub of tourists.

Quite distinct from the instinct of many tourists to "do" London (or many other wonderful destinations), we enjoyed a transcendent experience of worship at Westminster Abbey, fulfilling the purpose for which the church was built and continues to serve — as a living congregation of the Anglican Church, a place of worship, reflection, and meditation.

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