This building took nearly ninety years to construct – and the picture hardly does justice to the experience of its vast sense of space and beauty. The energy and craftsmanship that created such splendour are testimony to faith. It is all on such a scale that I will need another visit to absorb its treasures. Gothic in style, characaterized by great hieght and the use of pointed arches, boss stones, ribbed vaulting, large windows and flying buttresses. All this serves to life the eye upwards – and there is real gift in the multiplicity of images and symbols all pointing to teach the pilgrim about belief but above all to reveal soemthing of the presence of God.
One theme told moving from west to east is the story of redemption through faith. The story of creation is told in the Rose window of the West End and the climax is a sculpture of Christ in Majesty at the High Altar.
I am very taken with the work of this place – as well as this space. I have travelled to see Dr Greg Finch who works in the Cathedral Centre for Prayer and Pilgrimage. We talk about our mutual interest in the culture of medicine and healthcare and I learn more about some of the questions that shape his spiritual quest. I am interested to learn more about The Society for the Arts in Health Care ( www.thesh.org ) and how Church might contribute to an ongoing debate about the nature and nurture of health. We share an interest in those people who are on a spiritual journey but, for whom religion is not an illuminating grammar of meaning. There is a deep spiritual thirst for space and silence and peace – where is it to be found? What do people come looking for from our Churches? How do we help people to make connections?
And – what are the implications for the use of space in all our Churches? What distinctive vision can inspire and draw people in? Washington Cathedral stands in sharp contrast to some of our English cathedrals lost in history and sometimes with little meaningful relationship with the world around us.
Two things I have learned from my visit.
First – there is a power and persuasiveness to Christianity when it is open and generous to others.
Second – there is integrity for Christianity when it engages in reconcilation and healing – places and people who seek to embody justice among the broken and hurting of our world. Our faith must always look outwards and search for those in need.