Easter Vigil at Westminster Abbey

Beautiful cathedrals, churches and abbeys are always at the top of my architectural sight-seeing lists when in new cities and as amazing as they are on the outside, I’m always curious to see the inside. Most places charge an entrance fee and Westminster is one of them, so even though I’ve been here over a year now, yesterday was my first time setting foot inside the hallowed space because a public service usually means you can enter (and partake) for free!

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My friends and I chose to attend the Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter service at 8 pm on Saturday night because we figured it would be less busy and a lot easier to get into, which wound up being the right assumption. There were several empty seats in the back, but it was still very much a full service. Now, I’m not exactly sure of all the differences between the Church of England and Roman Catholic practices, but I know they were one in the same until Henry VIII broke away, which explains a lot of the similarities. The service was just under two hours and there was a lot more reading from the Bible than I was used to for any service. There was also a lot more incense and it was quite theatric.

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We started out in one area of the abbey with lit candles and then marched over to another area and after about 30, maybe 40 minutes, the lights were turned on to the tune of a LOUD organ that made the entire situation a bit too Phantom of the Opera if you ask me. The rest of the service was really lovely, but it was very different to have so many excerpts read out, very few actually pertaining to the Resurrection. If I recall correctly, back home (and at my Catholic services) we read about Moses and the Resurrection, but yesterday’s service started with the Creation and the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. There also wasn’t a homily, which is sometimes my favourite part of mass because it really helps me to understand and incorporate the readings in a more relatable manner. Overall, it was really interesting to see how Easter services are celebrated both in a foreign country and within a different sect of Christianity.

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Also, the inside of Westminster Abbey is really lovely. It’s not as heavily decorated throughout as a lot of other churches and cathedrals I’ve visited, but there are a lot of statues and a more ornate middle area where most of the reading and singing takes place. The Abbey is full of history and has been the site of monumental events, like Will and Kate’s wedding (!!!) six years ago, so if you have the chance to attend a service, I totally recommend seeing it in action. I’m sure you learn a lot of really interesting facts on a proper paid visit and tour, but I really wanted to attend a service at some point during my time here anyway. It’s also worth going to a service at Westminster Abbey because you walk out and see the Houses of Parliament, and that sight never ceases to amaze.

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