A Muslim’s Visit to the King’s Chapel

Kings_College_Chapel_CambridgeCarl R. Trueman, a professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, CA, shares that while in Cambridge with his youngest son–he decided to expose him to the coral evensong at the King’s Chapel (history of chapel here).

After making it into the Chapel, escaping the down pouring rain that Friday evening in June, Trueman observes, “It was then that I realized that the young girl sitting to my left was wearing a hijab. It was an interesting, if unlikely, juxtaposition: the middle aged Orthodox Presbyterian and the twenty-something Moslem waiting for the Anglican liturgy to begin. I assume that – rather like me – she was probably in the chapel for aesthetic reasons rather than religious ones…”

But it turned out to be something different, which led Trueman to say, among other things,

Yet here is the irony: in this liberal Anglican chapel, the hijabi experienced an hour long service in which most of the time was spent occupied with words drawn directly from scripture. She heard more of the Bible read, said, sung and prayed than in any Protestant evangelical church of which I am aware – than any church, in other words, which actually claims to take the word of God seriously and place it at the centre of its life. Yes, it was probably a good thing that there was no sermon that day: I am confident that, as Carlyle once commented, what we might have witnessed then would have been a priest boring holes in the bottom of the Church of England.  But that aside, Cranmer’s liturgy meant that this girl was exposed to biblical Christianity in a remarkably beautiful, scriptural and reverent fashion.”  read full article here

As a Baptist, I’ve been to a few Anglican services in my time, and had my fill of its beautiful liturgy.  But if we’re talking aesthetics of a physical chapel, then nothing compares with this famous King’s Chapel.

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9 Responses to A Muslim’s Visit to the King’s Chapel

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    Beautiful to hear about this!

  2. Lon says:

    great story! I’m going to forward this to an Anglican friend online.

  3. And I’m Lon’s Anglican friend. My husband is a conservative Anglican Bishop and I forwarded it to him. Loved this!

  4. Simon says:

    TC, I think Trueman’s experience at King’s Chapel is exactly why so many who were brought up in evangelical settings are joining “high Church” communions. Of course, as Trueman says, it is an apparent irony for Puritanical type Presbyterians to find supposedly “liberal” Anglicans worship with more scripture and more reverence. But, then again, worship had always been “liturgical” in a high Church sense before the Reformation. Calvinism seemed to intellectualize the worship experience and much spirituality was lost I think.

    What Trueman didn’t mention in his piece was that the traditional liturgical services also have an explicit Trinitarian shape. How many times in a typical low church evangelical setting do you hear the name of the Trinity evoked? Not many I would have thought.

  5. Colin says:

    Fascinating reflection. Over the years when I was training as a CoE Reader and since being licensed, I have really grown to appreciate what Cranmer gave us in the BCP morning and evening offices. Services where most of what is said and/or sung is drawn directly from God’s own Word.

    A choral setting also opens up the question of what exactly is worship. And does participation actually demand that the wider congregation join in the singing to a wide degree. Around 2 weeks ago I attended Choral Evensong in my own Cathedral of St Albans. I was certainly fully engaged and participating as I listened to the psalms and responses, readings and prayers, followed them in the book, and absorbed them as God’s word to me. and there was one congregational hymn as well.

    I ask myself whether worship is better defined in terms of the engagement and state of mind and spirit of those present, as much as the precise content.. Far be it for me to comment on the extent to which everyone present was so engaged . I can believe that some will be there as much enjying the aesthetics as engaging. But then I suggest we could sing modern worship songs for half an hour or more and not actually be worshipping.

  6. TC says:

    Simon: you know that as a Baptist I’m drawn to the high church liturgy. There’s a certain depth to it that I like. Therefore I know something of what you speak.

    Colin: you’ve touched on some really good points, especially as to the true nature of worship. I believe it’s something every conscientious believer should wrestle with. It’s certainly something the I wrestle with, and that is also why I desire the Lord’s Supper every week, as a Baptist.

  7. Colin says:

    Thank you TC. This is indeed one of those issues I have sought to engage with more deeply over the last 2 years or more. Not least since the retreat I enjoyed at Lee Abbey for Advent 2011. Retirement from paid employment might have something to do with it! I won’t imagine I have reached a final view, but that is where I am at this point. And what you have shared in, recent months, of your own journey on the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has been very positive for me in my own journey. I have certainly grown to appreciate and seek far more of some aspects of spiritual life from traditions other than the Baptist and Evangelical Anglican I have grown up with.

    • TC says:

      Yes, we can learn so much from each other. I think we must. We must step outside of our own traditions and see what God is doing among his other children, and I dare say, other citizens of his kingdom. To employ another metaphor, we’re all on a pilgrimage, and therefore need to learn from each other.

      I’m encouraged that my reflections on the Lord’s Supper have had a positive impact on your own journey. Blessings, brother.

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