St Margaret’s, London

Inside of St Margaret’s Church. Photograph by Cary Bass.

Inside of St Margaret’s Church. Photograph by Cary Bass.

St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, the parish church of the House of Commons, which stands on the grounds of the Collegiate Church of St Peter (a.k.a. Westminster Abbey), is more modest but fittingly dignified, with traceried clerestory windows, stained-glass windows in the aisles and especially the east end, and a distinct chancel with well-crafted choir stalls and golden ceiling ornamentation.

Angels are mounted between the arches in the chancel and the nave, reminding worshippers that angels are present in sacred gatherings to watch over and join with the saints (cf. 1 Cor 11.10):

And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

In the chancel, the church has set atop three steps a wooden Communion table, not a stone altar, with two candlesticks and an altar rail, as well as an altarpiece behind. Candlesticks and altar rails, I think, are good things because they encourage reverence for the holy (as long as you don’t light the candles with matches and blow them out, because that’s just tacky for church). The table seems to be set up, however, in a way that’s suited for eastward celebration, a line I really don’t favour crossing because of its sacerdotal implications: Christ alone is the mediator between God and man.

Church architecture has figured big in my thoughts lately.

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