Happy Michaelmas!

As I finish off my 3rd week here, I’m starting to get find my routine.  Speaking for myself, having a regular ~7 hour sleep schedule is glorious– and a marked improvement from my (unfortunately quite regular among the SWEboard) 5 hour power nap that sustained me last year.  During international orientation, many of my peers remarked that one of the main “culture shocks” is the pace of life in London.  Hmmm, fast paced, you say?  I guess when you’re used to riding a roller coaster, life on the expressway seems rather manageable.

My current routine for Sunday is among my favorite: mass & a museum.

Sept 22 – St George & the Imperial War Museum

Last week was at St George’s Cathedral in Southwark which was just a 15 minute walk south of my apartment.  I met up with one of my friend’s from UM (who is also studying for a year in London) for the 10am “Family Mass”.  Unlike the congregation at English Martyr’s 9am mass, the crowd was much more diverse:  as Wikipedia confirmed “every Mass is attended by people of different ethnicities and ages ranging from African to Asian to European.”  Perhaps it was more noticeable at this “family mass”, but children were definitely a-plenty. The typical attire was also much nicer– my skirt & dress top were no match for the standard Sunday’s Best.

Going back to what I had said earlier about my enthusiasm for learning about the community through their worship services, this week was an excellent lesson in history.  Here is a summary of some interesting points from the St George’s Visitor’s Guide that I picked up.

  • 1793 – 1828:    “The congregation, still largely consisting of wretchedly poor Irish, had numbered about 3,000 in 1793, but by 1828 seems to have increased fivefold.  Two or three of the chaplains died from infectious diseases endemic amongst the poor.”
  • 1848:  St George’s Church is opened
  • 1852:  Officially becomes a cathedral.
  • 1941:  Bombed.
  • 1953 – 1958: Cathedral is rebuilt. (This is the building that currently stands.)
  • late 20th C:  “Visitors to the rebuilt Cathedral have included Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and, marking St. Geroge’s commitment to interfaith dialogue, the Dalai Lama.  Today the congregation reflects the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of South London.”

Be sure to click on the pictures to see an expanded view and caption.

The entrance to the Imperial War Museum is just a stone’s throw away from St. George’s.  Upon arrival we received tickets to their current special collection on WWI; good thing that we arrived near the beginning of the day because they were already booking 2 hours in advance (to manage foot traffic).  Any tourist guide that I’ve seen ranks the IWM as one of London’s best attractions, and after visiting, I can definitely see why.

Again, be sure to click on the pictures to see an expanded image with caption.

Moving maps to help illustrate key points that lead to WWI:

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Keeping everyone interested:

War effort propaganda:

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Sept 28 – Brompton Oratory & the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum

Since “Family Mass” seemed to go well, we decided to give that a go for this week, too– this time at the Brompton Oratory.  This was the most conservative parish of the three that I’ve been to since I’ve arrived. A number of the women I passed on my way in were wearing lace veils; I later learned that the 9 and 11am masses (2 of the 7 masses they say every Sunday) were “1962 Missal” and “Latin High Mass” respectively. Large signs were on the doors requesting that visitors refrain from photographs, but you can view images from their photo gallery on their website.

The 10am “Family Mass” had an unbelievable children’s choir: 5 boys, ~35 girls with a glorious blend (and impressive vowel matching!) that suggested skillful instruction.  There may have been a hymn book for people to pick up on their way into the church, but I must have missed it. It probably wouldn’t have done much good anyway since I’m unfamiliar with the local music and the common hymnal around these parts only has words (no music).  And anyway, the congregation only joined on the opening & closing songs; everything else, including all the mass parts, were sung by the choir. Though I really enjoy singing to participate, being “forced” to just listen provides a unique opportunity that I am very grateful to have had.

The priest focused his homily on this week’s Gospel (click here for the excerpts) which excellently complemented the philosophy reading I have been doing this week on Moral Theory. What is right?  Good?  Just? More on this to come soon!

The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum of art & design was literally next door, so a post-mass visit only seemed fitting.

USA represent! VA Rotunda Chandelier by Dale Chihuly of Seattle , WA.


The museum is quite large, so I dedicated this visit to the Medieval and Renaissance wing.  Enjoy a few rounds of Identify Me, similar to Interpret This except there are correct answers this time.

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Some of the many representations of St George:

And finally, in honor of the liturgical feast celebrating the Archangels today:

Fun fact: September 29 is the feast of St Michael the Archangel.  Termed “Michaelmas” this date falls near the summer equinox each year and, conveniently, the beginning of the academic “fall term”– or as KCL (and other institutions) refer to it, the Michaelmas term. Check out this short Wikipedia article for a bit more info.

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