Winding our way through the streets, lined with crookedly stacked white buildings crossed with dark beams, with signs and flowers hanging off the fronts, swaying in the wind…people looking out their doors, or crossing the well-worn cobblestone roads, we hurried towards our destination, trying to keep up.
It was our last day together as a group and we left the bustling city of London, plunging into the medieval city of Canterbury. Still wrapped in Norman walls, Canterbury sucked us back in time, whispering its tales as we walked. After a big plate of fish and chips with plenty of vinegar, we made our way through the maze of streets to the soaring Canterbury Cathedral.
Hard to take in or fit in a photo, this huge, reaching, ornate structure holds too many stories to explore in an afternoon.
We entered the mother church of the Anglican Communion and met our guide, a sweet lady in a cardigan and pearls who looks like she’d be best friends with Julia Child. She took us to the site of the 1170 murder of Thomas Becket by King Henry II’s knights, explained the incredible story-telling stained glass, and led us up the pilgrim’s staircase, worn smooth with the steady, ancient traffic of respect.
We spent some quiet moments wandering the awe-inducing silent crypt beneath the cathedral, with medieval graffiti etched into the stone by watchful, waiting monks. There was an old man with a headlamp standing in the dim light, sketching where photographs are forbidden. I wish I’d had time to join him.
We participated in Evensong, sitting upright in the choir stalls beneath the vaulted ceiling containing so much history, the witness of so much life and struggle and hope.
Later in my journal, I reflected upon the parades of people who had passed in and out of those walls:
June 25, 2014
“So many years of devotion, worship, effort towards faith. The long struggle towards understanding God and following Christ is real and riddled with mistakes, but filled with honest effort, dedication and passion.”
We enjoyed a closing meal in an upstairs room where the wine and conversation flowed, celebrating our new friendships and shared experiences.