England-What Comes to Mind

When you think of England, what is the first thing you think of. For a lot of people, they would be thinking about London. London was the first place I knew that existed in England. When I was younger- I think back in elementary school, I wanted to go to London just to see a guard. That sounds odd, but I was only young after all. When I think of London, a LOT comes to mind. July 31st-August 10th were meaningful: those were the dates that created the Bristol Pilgrimage.

Five years ago on the 28th, my family left for London. We went from Charlotte to Atlanta to London. My family took my sister and I early to get used to the time change and to get more out of London. We arrived the 29th at Heathrow Airport, but I did not even believe we were in London. I had to see West End filers to know that we were actually in London. Before leaving the airport, my family walked to Costa Coffee- we did that to make sure we met the other pilgrims at the right place. We ended up having coffee and food at Costa. We would have arrived what felt like the middle of the night.

The 29th and 30th felt we were just tourists. All we did on the 29th was walk around the Westminster Area- I did get to see a guard. It was actually the 30th where it felt like we were doing something. Our first stop was Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. My sister and I were raised on Harry Potter- we both love the series. After that, there wasn’t much time to do much more- lunch, and then time to go back to the hotel, but first a stop at Paddington Station. After arriving back at the hotel, my mom and I had to get ready for Les Mis- not only did we have to get dressed, but also had to figure out how to get to the West End.

“I Dreamed a Dream”

Seeing the Queen’s Theater was surreal. I thought I was imaging. While getting a quick bite to eat for dinner, I kept on looking at the Queen’s Theater. I did have culture shock in the West End- we were buying souvenirs and was surprised that the playbill had to be purchased. I also ended up with a poster and t-shirt. My mom and I also got a souvenir for a church friend, whose favorite musical is Les Mis. From seeing the theater to buying souvenirs to realizing I had an understudy for Valjean to seeing the set to seeing how close we were- all felt not real. But then, I heard them- the first notes of the orchestra. I do see the orchestra as a character- the orchestra did tell me something- that it would be more than expected. Those notes were not wrong: it was more than expected- not just by cast, but by the ensemble and staging. I literally stood up right away during the curtain call. The revolve was one of the best parts, and the same with the barricade- in terms of staging. That cast- I never once detected I had an understudy, and they were brilliant.

I actually had my first stage door experience. Originally I did not want to, but my mom convinced me to. I actually met Adam Bayjou, who was Jean Valjean. He signed my playbill and got a picture of him. To get a picture with the actor, who was the main character was exciting. It was my dream to see Les Mis in London. There was one more thing I loved about that evening: I loved that my dad and sister got their own date while my mom and I were watching Les Mis. I was an emotional wreck- and did find new emotions in characters. I was also was laughing every once in a while.

The 31st- my family had to go back to the airport to meet the rest of the 72 pilgrims at Costa Coffee. Most of them left the same day I saw Les Mis. To from Valjean’s spiritual journey to my own- that actually made the musical more meaningful. We started at Windsor Castle. August 1st and 2nd consisted of a walking tour of London, Evensong at Westminster, Eucharist at St. Paul’s, and Tower of London (we didn’t have time to go in, but had time to walk around. I was nervous living London- I did not know anything about Bristol. It was chaotic living London.

Do you what London reminds me of? It reminds me of NYC, but a spread out version of NYC. One of the things I loved about being at Bristol was looking for Shaun the Sheep. I never once thought I would go to all the church services, but I did. From Bath to Berkeley Castle to Stonehenge to Old Sarum to Salisbury Cathedral to Tintern Abbey to Chepstow Castle- we went to places in and around Bristol. The Stonehenge day was when the church choir was off- so we were able to do more that day. Stonehenge was my mountain-top moment. That day actually seemed like it was going to rain, but the clouds gave Stonehenge an incredible atmosphere. I do not think that the things we did were the best part of the pilgrimage. In my opinion, the fellowship that was created was the best part. Our church has a stronger fellowship all because of the Bristol Pilgrimage. Some of the things we did had a stronger impact than others, but everything added up to the meaning behind the pilgrimage.

The last two days were spent in Bristol. So the pilgrims had free time until the church services. My family visited St. Mary Redcliffe, and by being there, I thought of the perfect motto for the Bristol Pilgrimage.

Those lyrics from the Servant Song are perfect- the song now has double meaning (Kanuga and the Bristol Pilgrimage). We really were travelers. We were pilgrims. We did help each other. We were at a number of places. There was only one time we weren’t in England- we were in Wales for Tintern and Chepstow. A lot of them were places I wasn’t familiar with. I actually was in tears twice in England. The first was at Les Mis and the other time was the final Evensong. When the final anthem was sung, I was in tears, and through that reaction, I knew just how transforming the pilgrimage was. The Bristol Pilgrimage was an important part of my spiritual journey. My family mainly wanted to go up early because of Les Mis- what was crazy about the stage show was that I did see it every other years. 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 were the years I saw the stage show: four theaters and three ways (community college, West End, and US Tour).

Do you know what the difference is between a tourist and pilgrim. A tourist actually just looks while a pilgrim looks much deeper for the spirituality and sacredness of a place and look deeper in themselves. I think the reason why I was able to find the spirituality in Les Mis is due to having a strong spirit. I accidentally mistook is for being too depressing when I first saw the movie, but for whatever reason gave it a 2nd chance.

My Experience at Duke Chapel

This morning, my church choir sang at Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina. I had a feeling that the service will make me feel like I am back at Bristol Cathedral. Well, back two years ago, I did not know if I wanted to go to so many church services. I went to church services at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster, Salisbury Cathedral, and Bristol Cathedral.

Most of my church services were at Bristol Cathedral, which were sung by my Church Choir. In all, my choir sang six Evensong services and one Eucharist services. The service that they did the best was the last one and during their anthem, I cried and through that reaction I knew just how transforming my pilgrimage throughout England was.

Below are pictures throughout my Bristol Pilgrimage. These are pictures from Stonehenge, Chepstow Castle, Tintern Abbey, and Old Sarum. However, the fellowship was the best part of the pilgrimage because if it wasn’t for the fellowship all of those amazing places would not have had the same impact they had.

On the bottom below, it is a picture of Shaun the Sheep in front of Bristol Cathedral. Throughout Bristol, Shaun the Sheep statues were hidden throughout Bristol as a fundraiser to help raise money for a children’s hospital.

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Below is Duke Chapel. Yes, this post is supposed to be mainly about Duke Chapel, but I had to explain about the Bristol Pilgrimage. Duke Chapel looks similar to Salisbury Chapel in a way and also looks similar to Bristol Cathedral. In the prelude, I literally started crying when the choir started singing. I feel like I did that because of how incredible the choir was, because of beautiful Duke Chapel was, and due to being transported back to one of the Bristol Cathedral church services.

But there was one very special moment in this church services. They played the same anthem in the last Evensong. Well, I had the same reaction and I cried. I literally had the same reaction and that reaction reminded me of the impact that the Bristol Pilgrimage had on me.

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Below are links to other posts I wrote relating to Bristol. One of them goes beyond the pilgrimage due to my family going up two days early.

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/connection-between-les-mis-and-stonehenge/

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/the-servant-song-meaning/

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/fellowship-in-bristol/

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/bristol-pilgrimage/

Connection Between Les Mis and Stonehenge

I find an connection to Les Mis and Stonehenge in such a special way. But why do they feel connected?

As some may know, I went on a trip to England in 2015. The choir at my church was in residence at Bristol Cathedral, which meant that they were going to be singing there. So, the church took the choir and other members on a pilgrimage to places such as Old Sarum, Chepstow Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, Berkeley Castle, and more. The year was 2015 and the pilgrimage began on July 31st. A pilgrimage is very different than a vacation. To me, a pilgrim goes to scared and spiritual places to create a deeper relationship with God and to find more meaning. A tourist on the other hand would just go to a place to explore and not so much to look for the sacredness and spirituality of a specific place.

The paintings below are pictures of Stonehenge and the Finale of Les Mis. They each played a part in that England trip and helped make that trip quite special.

But what does all of this have to do with Les Mis? Les Mis was not part of the pilgrimage, but was part of my trip to England. My parents took my sister and I to England two days early. So in those days, on July 30th, my mom took me to the Queens Theatre to see Les Misérables, a musical I dreamed of seeing in the West End. This was my first time seeing the musical professionally. Les Mis is such a special musical and it directly in a way was a great musical to see the day before a pilgrimage.

The picture below is a picture of me at the stage door with Adam Bayjou, who was my Valjean for the night and he was an understudy and was the best Jean Valjean I ever saw.  I always get nervous when I hear I have an understudy, but this Valjean was honestly so good. As a matter of fact, the entire cast was brilliant and due to finally seeing Les Mis in London, I found a bigger appreciation of a musical that changed the way I view musicals.

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Why would Les Mis be a wonderful musical to see before a pilgrimage? To start things off, Les Mis deals with spiritual themes and is a spiritual journey. Les Mis is a tale of love, hope, sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, humanity and redemption. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, goes on a spiritual journey when given a second chance at life. Seeing Les Mis in London was the best part of my trip to England.

Due to a pilgrimage being a spiritual journey, Les Mis fits perfectly. So the day after I went on Jean Valjean’s spiritual journey, I went on my own spiritual journey. Stonehenge was a “mountain top moment”. I really felt God’s Holy Spirit at Stonehenge. There was just something about the atmosphere that made Stonehenge so special. The strong wind felt like energy was going through you and felt like it was pulling you into Stonehenge. Stonehenge happened one week after I saw Les Mis in London.

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This is a picture from Windsor Castle. Visiting Windsor Castle was the first part of the pilgrimage. I got to see the changing of the guards. The first time I saw a guard in England was the day we arrived. My original reason for wanting to go to London was just to see a guard and that idea came from a child.

The pictures below are Tintern Abbey (Pictures on the right) and Chepstow Castle (Picture on the left).  At first, I thought Tintern Abbey would be kind of boring in a way. At first, I did not see the sacredness of it, but eventually did. I noticed a white dove nestled in the corner and a dove is symbol of spirituality so I got something out of Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey was in Wales.

In total, this pilgrimage consisted of ten church services. We saw Evensong at Westminster, Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral, and the other services, which consisted of one Eucharist and six Evensongs. Everything combined on this trip including the two extra days all provided something wonderful to this trip. There were the big memories such as Stonehenge and Les Mis and there were other memories, but those two things I did were quite special. As for the church services, my favorite ones were the ones sung by our Church Choir. As each service continued, the choir just got better and better. I actually cried twice during this trip. The first was during Les Mis and the second was at the last Evensong when the Anthem made me tear up. That reaction during that church service really showed just how transforming the England trip was.

The picture below is right in front of the Bristol Cathedral. Hidden throughout Bristol at the time, there were about seventy or so Shaun the Sheep statues as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital. Throughout my stay in Bristol, my family found about twenty one Shaun the Sheep statues.

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The best part of the pilgrimage was not any of the places that we went to, but was something that was created. Obviously Les Mis was the best part of the trip, but the best part of the pilgrimage was the fellowship created by all seventy two pilgrims. The fellowship is what made all the sacred and spiritual places we went to even more special.

Stonehenge in many ways really shows the meaning of a pilgrimage because it really is a place where you can strongly feel God’s Holy Spirit. Les Mis linked directly to the pilgrimage because of its spiritual themes and the fact that like the pilgrimage, it was also a spiritual journey. I honestly could go on and on why both Les Mis and the pilgrimage was as special as they were.

The Servant Song Meaning

Wow! There are so many songs to choose from. Multiple songs have some kind of meaning to me.

One important song is “The Servant Song”. I first heard it in elementary school at Kanuga, an Episcopalian Conference Center. Whenever I listen to it, memories of Kanuga come back to me. From third grade all the way to eighth grade, we had the same person lead the music and usually the Servant Song was one of the songs we would sing. It was one of the first Christian songs I ever heard and fell in love with.

But now the song has double meaning. Not only does it remind me of Kanuga, it also reminds me of the Bristol Pilgrimage. One of the things that my family did in Bristol was visit St. Mary Redcliffe, a beautiful church located in Bristol. There was a moment where I thought of some lyrics from the song and it reminded me of the pilgrimage.

The lyrics in the photo below ended up becoming the motto of the trip. The fellowship was the best part of the pilgrimage. All seventy-two of us were pilgrims on a spiritual journey exploring many sacred places like Stonehenge, Tintern Abbey, and Old Sarum. We traveled to many places like Chepstow, Salisbury, and Bath. We ended up helping each other throughout the trip and formed a close bond. So those lyrics perfectly fit how transforming the trip was.

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One special part to note about the pilgrimage is the number of church services that we attended. We attended two Eucharist services and eight Evensong services. Two of those church services were in London. Our two London services were Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Evensong at WestMinster. There was one Evensong service at Salisbury Cathedral. The rest of the services were at Bristol Cathedral. It was at the final Evensong where I truly realized just how transforming the trip was.

The fact that this song has a double meaning makes this song extra special to me. I love how one song can have more then one memory attached to it. I am so glad I love Christian music the way I do. It helps strengthen my relationship with God.

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Fellowship in Bristol

As many may know by now, I went on a pilgrimage last summer because our church choir was in residence at the Bristol Cathedral. The pilgrimage started on July 31st and lasted August 10th. Throughout the pilgrimage, we would explore many ancient and scared places.

Some of those places included the “mountain-top” Stonehenge, the medieval Berkeley Castle, Windsor Castle, Tintern Abbey, and more.We also attended ten different church services: most of which would be Evensong. However, seeing those places and feeling sacredness of those places was not the best part of the pilgrimage.

It was in fact the fellowship that the group shared for each other. We would be talking about our experiences seeing all of those places. We would help others find a way to feel the sacredness of a certain place. Those spiritual places would not have been as meaningful if the group did not the close bond that we had. The same also goes for the various church services. In fact, that fellowship still exists and gives me a feeling of how much the trip meant to me.

I did not realize how much the trip transformed me and my spirituality until the final Evensong. I really did not think I would gain anything out of any of the church services. But so glad I made the decision to go to each of them because it played such a huge part of the trip. It got to the anthem of the final Evensong and I cried. Through that reaction, I just knew how memorable, transforming, and spiritual the trip was.

There is no way to describe why I enjoyed the trip as much as I did. It even is difficult to  explain the impact it had on me. It still is hard to describe it in just a few words. But if I had to pick on word to describe the trip, it would have to something like “transforming” or “spiritual”. It will always be one of the biggest memories of my life.

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/spirituality-of-bristol-pilgrimage/

https://megsmagicalmusings.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/i-dreamed-a-dream/