It’s amazing what you can find in London! I stumbled upon a lovely church in Aldgate and went in for a “look”. I ended up attending a church service that coincided with the Russian Easter. A mere hour and a half before that I had attended an organ recital by Paul Dean at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was splendid.
At the church I was in for a few surprises. One, it was a Reformed Scottish church, and two, the service rested heavily on reading the Psalter and singing psalms. Last time I sang psalms was at the Advent service in Birmingham in 2008, where the text was projected on large screens. Here we each had a book of Psalms given before the sermon, and I had time to familiarise myself with the text of Psalm 122.
Along with several others, Psalm 122 constitutes the Book of Accents that pilgrims used to take with them, to read and sing during the pilgrimage. It is the story of joy of embracing Jerusalem and of dedication to praising it.
The preacher was one of a kind – slim, light ginger headed Scot, dressed in grey suit, accompanied with a tie with doggy print. I mean, on the tie dogs were printed. The manner was somewhat American, that coachy style of addressing the audience. I cannot say I disliked it, but my first question was if all Scottish Church preachers were like him. Apparently, he’s walking his own line in this.
Although I’m not religious as far as official church doctrines and rituals are concerned, I do like going into a church, either for a visit or even for a sermon. I must admit I prefer foreign churches for this, and as my experience here is by and large limited to Britain, British clergy and believers have always been very nice. They gladly break the ice and start a conversation. In a Russian church you sometimes feel like the building itself is making you a favour, not to mention people. As soon as the sermon finishes, the guards practically drive you out of the building. You will agree this is not the way to feel in what is supposed to be God’s home.
My childhood was marked by reading a book “The Bible for believers and non-believers”, written in late 1920s in the USSR and propagating the ideas, which gist you can easily imagine. In my youth I came across more books that questioned the Bible and various concepts relating to God. However, it was only in England that I began to reconsider certain ideas, and, as I said before, although I still remain outside a church or confession, I’m much more accommodating of an idea of the Higher Reason being involved in our lives. In doing so, I am more inclined to the Judaic concepts rather than Christian, insofar as the figure of God is concerned. But as yet I don’t observe Saturday!
So, after the sermon I went for a walk around Islington, of which George Mikes wrote that all poor people migrated there and turned it into a fashionable district. I don’t know how “poor” Islington people are 50 years later, but the area is buzzing with building and development, so it certainly remains fashionable.
And near the church there was a fountain with some lovely inhabitants – see in the photo!