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January 27, 2008

Impressions of faith ....

Worshipping in a place like Tewkesbury Abbey provides some interesting insights into faith across the centuries. Several things about the Abbey have put this into perspective for me over the years, but I am sometimes only reminded of them when I show visitors from abroad some of the little hidden treasures or poignant reminders of lives cut off short.

Looking at the structure one realises that, when it was first built, there would have been little in the vicinty on anything like this scale. The houses in the town around it would have been wattle and daub, single storey, or at most double storey with sleeping spaces under the thatch covering the roof. So the towering walls of this great church would have been awe inspiring to say the least. Then there is the length of time it took to build - a relatively short thirty nine years - which means that many of those who started work on it as boys apprenticed to a mason, would have been nearing the end of their working lives by the time the main church was finished. One can argue that they only did this because they needed the pay, and yes, that would be a fair critique, but there is, when you look closely at the stonework and the delicacy with which some pieces are finished, something more than that. The men and boys who built this great church put something of themselves and their hopes for the life to come into it as well. This is their building, every stone a standing testiment to their faith and their beliefs.

Commencing work on a project like the Abbey was, for everyone involved, a major act of faith. Most knew they would never see it completed - but they set to work on it anyway.

Praying in the Abbey one is always reminded of the men, women and children who dedicated their lives to creating it, then to maintaining it and to worshipping in it. It commands the vale in which it stands and can be seen from Cleeve Hill some ten miles away. It can be seen from the M5 from roughly six miles out towards Gloucester and from some three miles away from the north. The tower can be seen from Gloucester and it dominates the landscape, a testament to all who see it that faith built it, faith sustained it and faith keeps it still. Perhaps the greatest testament to that faith is the fact that this massive structure has no foundations ..... Yet it has stood for 904 years and will probably still be here in another 900 years. Yet it is not quite true to say it has no foundations for it was founded on faith and in faith, just as it is sustained in faith - the faith that has led those who built it and who have worshipped and still worship in it, to proclaim the faith of Christ, crucified, dead, buried and risen from the tomb.

Worshipping here, leaves one sometimes lost for words, but seldom lost for faith.

Posted by The Gray Monk at January 27, 2008 03:23 PM

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