Saturday, 25 January 2014

"Cathedrals have tried in vain"

Whew, today was a crazy busy day! Warning: this post is very long, its for your enjoyment but a lot of it was just so I wouldn't forget anything! The day started out with the group meeting at 7:45am and getting on a coach bus to Dover, about 2 hours away. The ride was say the least. Once we had gotten to the castle, which was almost completely hidden under a think layer of fog, the professors set us out to explore. 

The entrance to the Castle.

Some of my flatmates, love these girls! We were quite chilly all day!

While at Dover, we got to go on a tour of the secret underground war tunnels that were used in both world wars. During WWI the tunnels were primarily used as ammunition storage for the British. The second world war used the tunnels in a more strategic way, as an underground hospital as well as for living quarters for soldiers among other things. During the battle at Dunkirk in France the base was the place that rescued soldiers would be brought. If I'm remembering correctly over 300,000 troops were brought to Dover once rescued from the coming Nazis in France, as it is only about 20 miles from the French shore. While Dover Castle was never bombed during WWII it received heavy artillery fire. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the tunnels but rest assured, it was very cool! The model of the hospital that they have in the tunnels was actually constructed from illegal photographs that one of the doctors took before he left the base. The photos were illegal because if the Germans had gotten ahold of them they would have known exactly what was at Dover! It literally it could have changed the course of history. What the tunnels actually looked like is still highly protected government information and will not be released until 2074! There was something about being in the war tunnels that resonated with me, these soldiers were my age, were my sisters ages. These people had families, mothers, children, and friends. Today they became real people with lives and stories, the only difference in me and them is that I got fortunate enough to live out my ambitions and not be born in a time of overwhelming war for the entire globe. 

Here is the only "white cliffs of Dover" that I really got to see, the fog was so thick today! Nonetheless, it was beautiful and I'm so glad that we got to go tour this place. 
Once we left Dover we had lunch on the bus, and yes it did feel like a kindergarden field trip, and headed to Canterbury. Let me just say, I loved and I mean absolutely loved everything about this little town, I think it may be my new favorite place on earth... I have a few contenders. Yet again, we filed off the bus and were told to go explore! Dr. Woodfin, Emily, Stephanie and I set out on a small trek to find St. Martin's Church. The church is the oldest church in the English speaking world that has been continually in use! It was founded in the 500s by queen Bertha who was a Christian, her king was Ethelbert of Kent and he was pagan. He gave her this as a place to worship. Walking up to this church there is a cemetery surrounding the church containing at least 900 graves, as was customary to bury the dead in the churchyard, although its just plain creepy if you ask me! The oldest visible date on the stones is 1686.  

This is the door that we walked in to enter the church it is very small and quite, as it is outside of town.
Entering this church gave me immediate goose bumps, I was part of history today. I became a part of my faith on a grand scale and in this tiny church on the outskirts of a small town in England I remembered the people who have gone before me. Thinking about it now, only a few hours after still gives me chills and I am still in awe that I stood here with my own two feet. Pictures will never be able to grasp the raw emotion that being here brought me. I wish you could all smell the green moss that covered the headstones, feel the wind and the chilly damp weather that surrounded us, hear the silence upon entering this sacred ground and see the intricate details that make this place astonishing. While in the church I took a sort of self guided tour, while that was all fascinating I would say that the most wonderful thing was lighting a candle here, being still, and as they put it "be aware that God is present." Amen to that. There are one or two pictures of the inside of the church on Facebook if you want to see a little more. Also, St. Martin is the mother church of the Canterbury Cathedral. 

This is just to the left of the picture above, just a few of the headstones. I felt like I was in a movie the whole time! 
Once we left St. Martin's, much too soon I might add, we headed to the Cathedral for a tour. This was the most fascinating tour that I have ever been on! The fact that I am obsessed with Church history should not sway you in any way ;). We split up by schools and our guide was named Pauline, she was a very charismatic lady who you could tell was still passionate about her job. I want to tell you everything about the tour and remember every tiny detail that she said about all the cool stuff in the Cathedral but literally I could fill a book...lets face it, there are whole libraries you could fill with all of this awesome history. The Archbishop of Canterbury is seated here and is the principal head of the Church of England, a position that dates back more that 1,400 years! Once I put up pictures on Facebook I'll caption them with what they are and yes, some historical documentation of each one, so that I don't have 97 pictures here. I know you're excited to hear me ramble some more.

A shot outside of the Cathedral before the tour. 

These steps, just wow. They were the steps that pilgrims from all over the country would have come up on their knees praying to St. Thomas (more on his story later). This was a practice that went on for over 300 years. Look at how worn they are from thousands and thousands of people coming here to pray on their knees.

This is a shot of the Cathedral from inside the cloisters. It was dusk and perfectly lit!
After our tour, that lasted about 2 hours, we went back inside for the choral evensong. The Evensong was just a service but tonight's was historic! It was the first time that a girls choir sang in the Cathedral instead of a boys. Once the service was over we headed back to the bus through the remnants of a sleet storm that had occurred while we were inside and began our journey home. When I got on the bus I started to listen to my iPod and the first song that came on was Needtobreathe's Signature of Divine, the first line of this song says: "Cathedrals have tried in vain to show the image of Your face." Talk about perfect timing, right?! I listened to the rest of the song and knew that at that moment I was being reminded to be in love with the Creator of all things instead of with things created. Because honestly it is so easy for me to fall in love with these places, with the architecture and with the past that things have. While this Cathedral was absolutely beautiful, it does not even hold a candle to my Savior's.
It went pretty smoothly, until we got caught in a traffic jam that lasted over an hour. After about an hour and a half we decided that we would have better luck getting home on the tube and abandoned our poor bus driver to walk in the cold. Long story short we made it home, finally! It's now after 1:00am here and I am beat! I'm sure that I'll read this later and think I sound completely silly or make no sense but for now, thats life!
Missing you all,

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