Monday, August 13, 2012
I'm not a religious person, but I do have a strong interest in spiritual matters. Though as a child I was baptized into the Anglican Church, I do not consider myself a follower of the Christian faith, nor do I use the Bible as a guide for living life. Basically, I don't believe in the existence of deities - period. If I had to choose a religion, I would probably opt for Buddhism, at least in its Mahayana form. If I was, say, forced at gunpoint to pick Christianity, I would most likely return to the Anglican fold, for the Church of England, along with its non-Commonwealth Episcopalian branches, represents an almost sane practice of Christian values that is sadly absent in American-style conservative fundamentalism.
The above paragraph is pretty much a convoluted way of getting to the point that this afternoon (Sunday), the family and I visited the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the Washington National Cathedral. But the cathedral isn't just a Protestant church, for it hold services for other denominations, as well as memorial services for deceased presidents. From the outside, the building brought back memories of past trips to great cathedrals in London and Vienna:
Both sides of the nave are lined with statues and stained glass windows. The first bay we looked at salutes George Washington with a marble statue:
Here Amber poses in front of the sarcophagus of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president. Though leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford have had memorial services held in the National Cathedral, Wilson is the only Commander-in-Chief whose body is actually interned here:
Speaking of my daughter, she really enjoyed the afternoon. She was given a children's guide to the cathedral, and eagerly sought out all the highlighted attractions. Amber was particularly interested in locating the Space Window, which commemorates the accomplishments of Apollo 11 (and if I have to provide a Wikipedia link for you to look this up, I feel really, really sorry for you):
The stained glass windows were impressive. These two below covered the Lewis and Clark expeditions (and for this one, I will include a link):
Across the nave from George Washington stands a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, along with some pennies set into the floor (the Cheerios box is not part of the display, but is actually part of a food drive going on at the cathedral. If only more Christians did things like this, instead of lining up to buy fundamentalist fried chicken, this country would be a much better place for all of its citizens):
Martin Luther King, Jr. is also commemorated in the nave, but my camera didn't do his likeness much justice. My dream is that I'll one day have a truly top-of-the-line digital camera:
We eventually made our way to the High Altar at the rear of the cathedral. The altar is dominated by Jesus giving benedictions while surrounded by 110 figures:
We next ventured down into the Crypt, where there were some small chapels, plus the gift shop. Having a history that dates back to only 1907, the Washington National Cathedral lacks a suitably atmospheric crypt such as you would find in the great European churches. However, the view from the Pilgrim Observation Gallery, which we reached by elevator, was impressive. The Capitol and the Washington Monument could be seen in the distance, though the smeared glass made photography a challenge:
While in the observatory, we broke out the fudge that we had purchased downstairs in the gift shop. Nothing says "Christianity" more than chocolate and peanut butter fudge - take that Judaism and Islam!:
Back outside, Amber insisted on checking out the gargoyle statues on the side of the cathedral. The frog was truly fearsome:
The last thing that my daughter and I did before getting back in the car (my wife decided to sit on a bench and eat some dried noodles her brother had sent from Taiwan) was to take a stroll through the Bishop's Garden:
The Washington National Cathedral makes for a pleasant visit. It's a long walk from the nearest Metro station, but in our case we drove, as my wife hates walking, the sun and walking in the sunshine. As it turned out, parking was a breeze, with plenty of free spots next to the building. And for that, we felt blessed.