Comparing how different countries and parts of the world practice the same religion, specifically Christianity, has always been an interest of mine. Seeing how consistent a religion in is in various places of the world with different cultures and languages always made me wonder how strong and regular Christianity is. Because of this, before I came to study abroad in England, I made a pact with myself that I would try to attend a Christian service and see how similar services in England are to services I have attended in the United States. I partially accomplished this already when I attended a church concert at St. Martins-in-the-fields Church in London with my Religion class, a post I wrote about previously, but this will particularly focus on my visit to a very well known Christian Chapel in Cambridge, England; the King’s College Chapel.
The King’s College Chapel, since it is located in England, is an Anglican Church and a perfect example of Perpendicular architecture due to its fan vaulting, high ceilings, large amounts of stained glass windows along every wall, and pointed arches. This was the first thing that I noticed as a main difference; the grand and ornate place of worship. The church I attend at home is a fairly simple building with a few modern aspects in its abstract, non-symmetrical plan, and plain façade made out of stucco with a few wooden decorative crosses. For me, this reinforced the history of religion, specifically Christianity, in England. This chapel was first started by King Henry VI in the 15th century and was finally completed after 100 years in 1536. This chapel was designed to reflect the Christian religion similarly to churches in the US but the degree of ornamentation and decoration reflecting Christian ideals and stories is incomparable. The stained glass windows of this chapel are particularly special due to its biblical references. The top portion of these windows depict biblical stories from the old testament and the lower level of stained glass windows reflect biblical stories from the new testament; a incredibly unique feature that isn’t seen in the United States.
Unfortunately, the day I went to Cambridge, I was unable to attend either service that is held at the Chapel due to the inexistence of services that day, but I did participate in the exhibition of the Chapel where it explained the different services held here. What I noticed from the exhibition was that the main concepts and principles of Christianity including accepting God as your one and only savior, devoting your life to God, the forgiveness of sins, and the holy scriptures and stories from the Holy Bible that are taught are consistent with what I’ve learned in services in the United States. The songs, number of services, and the structure of these services however, is where differences arose.
The main difference between services of King’s College Chapel and services in the United States is the various service types. Normally, Christian churches in the United States have a weekly service on Sunday that consists of singing worship songs (some from the bible, but not all), a sermon from the Priest, and Holy Communion once a month at one of these Sunday services. At King’s College Chapel however, has two types of services that bring the Christian traditions to daily life are held numerous times a week. Matins and Evensong is one of the two different services held at the chapel. This particular service highlights the literary traditions of Christianity with music by reading and singing prayers from parts of the Bible and with the people participating in sacrament. Also at this service, the famous boys choir performs various psalms from the Bible. The second service, Mass or Holy Communion, also held regularly, is a service where a Priest preaches a sermon and leads the congregation in communion by repeating Christ’s words by saying “This (bread) is my body. This (wine) is my blood.”
When comparing these services to the United States, numerous differences start to appear. For instance, the songs that are sung during Evensong are strictly psalms from Holy Scriptures where as in the United States, most songs that are sung in services I’ve attended are contemporary music pieces from modern artists. Also, the choir at the Evensong service consists of only young boys whereas in the United States most choirs are made of older adults of both sexes. Similar to the Mass service at King’s Chapel, Priests in the United States say this same thing before Holy Communion services, but communion itself isn’t a different service. What I found generally was that the churches I go to at home are more contemporary and emphasize the individual’s private relationship with God rather than biblical psalms, scriptures, and traditions of Christianity, all of which were emphasized more in the services at King’s College Chapel.
Although I wasn’t able to actually sit and attend a church service at King’s College Chapel, after visiting this beautiful building, I was able to learn a little more about the similarities and differences of Christianity in England and the United States. From my experience, I came to the conclusion that even though the services at the King’s College Chapel are far more traditional than most Christian services in the United States, the foundation and base of the Christian religion (morals, principles, and teachings) are consistent in England and the United States; showing the regularity and strength of Christianity.
Tour and exhibition at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England
“History of the Chapel.” King’s College, Cambridge. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2012. <http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/chapel/history.html>.