Tintern Abbey

by Katie Ann

For a couple afternoon hours we stopped in Wales to see Tintern Abbey.  I was struck by this as I finished editing pictures from that trip the other day.  While it was a short stop, it was probably the most memorable stop on the trip, one of those places I left my heart.  Seeing Tintern Abbey is an experience in and of itself.  Part of you wants to weep that someone could take such a beautiful place of worship and tear it to pieces and the other half of you thinks it's more beautiful without the windows and the roof.  There was a way you could connect with the beautiful rolling hills surrounding the abbey that you wouldn't have been able to do if it were still standing the way it was built.  Instead of those gorgeous stained glass windows, the rolling hills became your backdrop for your worship.  And instead of those huge chandeliers coming down from the high vaulted ceilings you literally looked up at sky and felt the beautiful sunshine come down on your face.  I love the picture above, it was probably my favorite I took the whole trip because it completely exemplifies these ideas.  As I stood there I remember wondering what it would be to have a service in there on a sunny Sunday morning or a midnight candlelight Christmas Eve service under the stars.
But beyond the the ruins of Tintern Abbey are the people.  I was standing by the wall looking out to the rest of the town when a wonderfully nice old welsh man stopped to talk to me.  He spent 15-20 minutes with me explaining the history of the abbey and then explaining his own encounter with it since he had lived there his whole life.  He told me how him and his school friends used to climb the old wood beams that used to run the highest arches of the abbey and how when he was older he ran the Abbey Hotel which sits right next to it.  He recently sold it but has still decided to stay in the area and lives right up the road on one of those beautiful rolling hills that looks over the abbey.  I don't remember his name and I barely remember his face but I will forever remember his kindness and openness in sharing his and the areas history with me.
That trip forever changed my life and definitely opened my eyes to the world around me but that place especially will always be in the back of my head when I think of the ideal place to worship.  A place where everything comes together; community, sanctuary, and creation.  It is definitely a magical place to which I pray someday to return.