Well, I have ended my contract with my school in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province. While I would very much like to return to Korea, I suppose that this is an opportunity to take stock of where things are in my life and where they should be going towards. No matter whether or not I return to Korea as a teacher, I will always maintain deep affection for the Korean people and their country. I have learned so much from them, quite possibly more than they might have learned from me.
My boss, eager to economise as always, set me on a very interesting journey around the world. I began my journey in Seoul at the magnificent Incheon International Airport. After some harrying moments, I managed to get to my gate and took Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong.
Having a ten hour lay over in Hong Kong, I decided that I wasn’t going to hang around the airport the whole time. I know Hong Kong well, so I escaped and visit some old familiar places. I arrived back in time to go through immigration and catch the next flight to London.
I arrived very early in the morning in London. Again, I didn’t want to remain at Heathrow all day, so I went through immigration. Again, I had an eleven hour layover. I took the train over to Paddington Station from Heathrow. The Heathrow Express is a marvelous thing.
I hadn’t seen Westminster Abbey, so I figured that would keep me occupied during my few hours in London. It is very easy to find, given that the Westminster tube station serves both it and the Houses of Parliament.
Hearing the actual Westminster chimes was an experience. Westminster Abbey has long had an association with the Crown. It is not a cathedral, though it does have a Dean and Chapter of Canons just like any Church of England cathedral church would. It began its life as a Benedictine abbey. Thus the Chapter House, which perhaps is used by the Dean and Chapter was once used by an abbot and his monks.
On the grounds of Westminster Abbey is a small church, St. Margaret’s. This church is sort of the unofficial parish of Parliament. The Speaker of the House of Commons actually does have a pew there. The portcullis symbol of Parliament is woven on the kneelers!
St. Margaret’s is a lovely church and well worth the visit. Touring Westminster Abbey does not come cheap, I’m afraid. It costs £16 for an adult! You enter through the great north doors of the abbey.
As tends to be the case with European cathedrals, photography is not allowed inside. The High Altar is especially beautiful and the Lady Chapel, built by King Henry VII is exquisite. Unfortunately, though, the abbey isn’t quite what it was. During the Reformation, many of the altars were destroyed and quite a bit of the religious art. It was at Westminster Abbey that the Westminster Confession of Faith, the creed of the Calvinists, was formulated. However, some beautiful altars have since been placed in the Lady Chapel, at the High Altar, and at another altar in the nave.
The towers of Westminster Abbey were added in the 18th century. In the late 20th century, statues of various 20th century martyrs were added. Among them are Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Roman Catholic Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Russian Orthodox Saint Elizabeth of Russia, the Chinese pastor and evangelist Wang Zhiming who was killed during the Cultural Revolution, and others.
Saint Elizabeth was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth before becoming a nun and founding a convent. Her community was unique for its time, combining both contemplative life with an active ministry to the poor. She perished at the hands of the Communists along with the Imperial Family of Russia. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.