Sacred Places Journal
24 and 25 October, 2001: London Postscript
24: A few very lovely farewell events with my daughter who will be staying London to continue her parish work: We go to the National Gallery and do the "Life of Christ" walk, viewing 20 of the world's greatest paintings of Christ whilst listening to a narration that recounts the events with historical and theological accuracy.
Then we walk across Westminster Bridge, arm in arm in a driving rain, sheltering under a big back umbrella, to Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. For months I have been corresponding with Dr. Carey's staff in an attempt to arrange an interview. Today is the day--and the Archbishop is off on a sudden trip to the Middle East. But his press secretary will give us a tour of the palace. Our privileged peak inside this historic residence is a time capsule of Christian history in this land.
I return to find an e-mail message from my husband: our son in the Army Reserves has been returned to active duty.
25: Today I take the train to Colchester and then a taxi to a well-hidden farm at the end of a long lane outside the tiny village of Wormingford to visit one of my favorite writers, Ronald Blythe. He tells me that his house was built around 1600, "This house was here when Shakespeare was alive." He gives me an excellent lunch and feeds an open fireplace on hand-cut apple wood. We talk about the writing life, our favorite authors, and the Church of England.
Back in London, a contemplative prayer group, sitting in deep, calm, silent prayer in a serene room. Then I pack while watching the video of the 14 Sept. Memorial service at St. Paul's. The hymns and lessons are particularly moving: "Immortal, invisible, God only wise," Isaiah 61:1-4,11, Romans 8:31-39, "Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us O'er the world's tempestuous sea," "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord," and for the first time in St. Paul's Cathedral, "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In the Cathedral 2600 political and religious leaders, but mostly ordinary people, many from the American community in London (including my daughter). And thousands more standing outside, joining in the singing. Just before the service eight million people had observed the 3 minute silence--the first time ever done clear across Europe. One entry in the Book of Remembrance reads: "Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand."
Packing books and crosses--momentoes of my journey through Christian history--I listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury's memorial address. "For the flower of democracy to flourish it must grow in the soil of justice. Those responsible for the attack must be held to account, but we must be guided by higher goals than mere revenge. As we battle with evil our goals must be a world where such violence is a thing of the past."
Afterward, the BBC commentator remarks that, "Memorial services can sometimes heal wounds, but here we are remembering a slaughter so hideous it can only offer a fleeting respite from a pain too raw and too recent for the healing to begin. Today we are still in the grip of horror of so many thousand deaths at the hands of so few, who planned with precision to destroy the lives of the innocent on a scale never seen in recent times. Truly a day of infamy."
I think of the many times my mother told me how beautiful her life had been before Pearl Harbor. "And then everything changed," she would say. The Twin Towers terrorism seems a very similar act. I am very ready to go home. But will I find my world changed? Can I draw strength from the examples of those indomitable saints I've been studying? And from the indomitable God they served who is "the same yesterday, today and forever"?