Spend just a few hours in London and you’ll be overwhelmed with the sounds of honking double decker tour buses, street musicians and the cacophony of sounds deep in the bowels of London’s Tube stations. Take a break from all that stimulation by spending 45 minutes at the Evensong program held at Westminster Abbey, at 5pm. Never heard of an Evensong service? It’s simply a time of music, Bible reading and silent reflection.
Westminster Abbey Options
While a tour of Westminster Abbey costs a steep 40 pounds for a family, the Evensong service is free, as are all services on Sunday. Unless your children are fascinated with British history and Gothic architecture, skip the standard entrance fee and attend the Evensong service. You’ll see most of the Abbey and have a true experience at the service. If your children are reluctant to attend, explain how the building and service will be very “Harry Potter”-ish. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, the Evensong service is an eye-opening educational experience for children.
So Much to Observe
You are ushered into the 700-year-old-Abbey by church volunteers wearing a combination robe and cape. It’s hard not to gasp at seeing the high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows bursting with color and intricate designs. For most kids, the building alone is enough to create an atmosphere where they understand the importance of being quiet. We had a 4-year-old sitting next to us who sat awestruck through the entire service.
Pretending to be at Hogwarts
Make an effort to arrive early to be seated up front so you can see the choir. This isn’t your typical church choir made up of
middle-aged people in black choir robes. Oh no…this choir is made up of boys from the world famous Westminster Abbey Choir.
They all looked straight out of Central Casting, complete with chubby cheeks, wearing frou-frou ruffled collars under their necks. Most American children have little idea how a boarding school operates. (Except of course, what goes on at Hogwarts!) Boys as young as 8 audition to be a part of this exclusive choir. They live full-time at the boarding school where they receive a first-rate education. Many classes have only six students!
The boys sing daily at the Evensong service, after finishing a typical day of choir practice, classroom study and sports activities. I’m sure all American mothers attending the service are thinking, “I can’t get my child to pick up their socks, let alone sing harmony in Latin while looking angelic.”
Don’t worry that you’ll feel awkward or out of place. The audience is made up of tourists who, like you, want to see the Abbey while also saving money! A printed program is offered so you know exactly what is happening. Kids can easily follow along. With the standing, sitting, reading out loud, singing and gazing at the Abbey, no one has time to complain they are bored.
Another plus…no sermon! Ask children to look for the 100 statutes of Saints hidden in niches around the building.
Exit With A Flourish!
When the service ends, the organ plays a rousing ceremonial march as you are ushered out of the building, feeling as if you are part of a British procession. The quiet is over, and you’ve had the chance to regroup and enjoy the sights and sounds of London. In fact, as you exit, don’t be surprised if you are greeted by the peals of the bells from Westminster Abbey followed by the loud chimes from Big Ben, right down the street.