Yet God is my king from of old, who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
I went to the Brompton Oratory with Chris and Mike this morning for High Latin Mass. We met up with our advisor, John, and underwent quite the High Church experience, complete with three gold-robed officials (they had black hats but I don’t know their rank) and plenty of incense. They conducted the whole service in Latin except for the scripture readings; the congregation responded in Latin. The altar “boys” wore long black robes with white lacy shirt-things over top. Apparently their robes were especially lacy because Mary is their patron. It did make pretty much all other church services look like BBQs, left my jacket smelling of incense, and me feeling uncouth and provincial. Nobody’s ever even heard of my denomination, but these guys have centuries of tradition and millions of worshippers to back them. It was…quite an experience. I’m getting lots of those this trip.
Afterwards I walked up and wandered around Hyde Park. I stopped at the Speaker’s Corner, one of the few places where Brits can have truly free speech, and immediately heard one vocal anti-Christian speaker. Then I heard five Christian speakers, one political speaker (anti-America? Not sure), and two Islamic speakers, as well as a couple of people I really couldn’t place. While I took a picture of one fellow, a young man came up to me and said he recognized me from the Brompton Oratory earlier that morning. Apparently he also had seen me at St. Paul’s the previous Sunday, and felt the coincidence of encountering a random stranger three times like that just couldn’t go unremarked. I wish I’d talked with him more; he seemed like a nice enough Australian guy, and I could have used some company. I couldn’t begin to guess the number of couples walking, laying, kissing, holding hands, etc., I saw at the park. I also saw about 50 different soccer games, as well as a couple cricket games, going on in the wide, grassy fields with which Hyde Park abounds. The park is essentially huge fields with some trees, a big pond (the Serpentine, although it’s actually fairly straight and wide), some statues, flower gardens, and lots of paths going random places. I suppose it’s a nice enough park, and I spent about two hours walking around there, but my preference tends towards more woodsy, natural parks with trails rather than paths. On the plus side, the Kuwait and French embassies border Hyde Park, and I saw a gorgeous building with six British flags and two really fancy cars parked in front of it in the park, but I don’t know what the building was. Also along the way I saw the Icelandic and Danish embassies.
Along the way there and back I passed a Mont Blanc store, which sells fountain pens among other things. I stood outside and looked through the window at their shining “writing instruments” and dreamed for a moment of walking in there and buying one. But the store had a look that Ian once described: “It’s the kind of place where you have to wear a suit to buy a suit.” The salespeople could have gone to black-tie events; everything shone; and I just knew one of those pens was way out of my £50 price range. I didn’t want to walk in wearing my jeans (they’re clean!) and incense-smelling jacket to look at pens, and then learn that they cost more than my plane ticket over here. Essentially I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
In all I walked for about three hours but it wasn’t my best walk. I went alone and really felt that aloneness in the heavily-populated Hyde Park.