I’ve Been Here Before – St Michael’s Mount

I just spent far too long putting this post together only to have it disappear so I’m afraid you will have to make do with a shorter version as I have blackberries in the kitchen calling to me to turn them into jam.

When I knew David and Steven were coming to Cornwall, I suggested we pay a visit to St Michael’s Mount and as they were going to be here on a Sunday, we made a plan to attend the Sunday service.

To reach the church you must cross the cobblestone path you see in the photograph above.

This is easy enough as Steven demonstrates above until the tide comes in.

Here you can see the exterior of the church nestled with the castle around it. I took this on an earlier visit.

I managed to snap a discreet photo just before the service began. After the service David photographed a few of the stained glass windows with two shown below.

David is in the photo below with Marazion in the background.

Can you see the tide coming in the photograph below? People are hurrying to get across.

Below is a another look at the water and people … it’s partly under water now.

You can see a close-up of what the stone path looks like as the water spills over it. John took this of me in 2008 and I altered it a bit for this post.

Elizabeth At St Michael’s Mount – 2008

You have two ways to cross as I said earlier and this trip we came back in the boat below. I wrote a post about my first church experience at St Michael’s Mount in 2008 and thought some of you might find it interesting.


Elizabeth - August 2008

Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat

Originally posted – August 13, 2008

I have thought a good bit over the last few days about this post. What to call it and how to write it. Sometimes it can be difficult to say what is on my mind. My internal editor tends to call out from the back of the room where she sits in my head. Arms crossed over one another she has a defensive posture she likes to assume when she feels as if I’m stepping off into a place of too much controversy. She’s there now, shaking her head giving me the look that says, “ Are you sure you want to talk about this?” “ Shush, I say … get lost,” and with that I step off into the murky waters of spiritual questioning.

I don’t like church services or organized religion. I dislike anyone telling me what I must think or do in order to know God.

In England where many I’ve met consider themselves to be atheists, saying those words out loud doesn’t seem to have the same effect as it would in the bible belt part of the US where I was born. Mind you I feel that I have been to enough church services to speak from a place of experience as to why I don’t care for them. It’s pretty simple really. The only voices I hear in any house of worship are those in my head. Cynicism, skepticism, and judgement, both of others and myself tend to make so much noise that the voice of God is never present there.

So I don’t go anymore.

Recently I made an exception to my usual avoidance of church attendance when I spent an hour or so in a historic chapel attending the Sunday service. The Chapel on St. Michael’s Mount was completed in 1135, although much of it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1275. I had mentioned to John that I would like to see what a service was like there when we had visited it originally a month earlier. I said it was for the experience you know … I mean how many times does one get a chance to hear scripture quoted in a place where souls have gathered for a same purpose for almost 900 years. I said I wanted to go in order to see how a Church of England service might differ from the Lutheran beliefs that I’d grown up with.

That’s what I told him and that was the truth at least in part, because the core of who I am is a woman with an insatiable curiosity. In most situations I have a strong desire to experience things firsthand, but the rest of the story is that on some level I thought in a worship service held where people have come together for hundreds of years I surely might find some whisper of God’s voice.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for direction communication as in a voice from a burning bush, but I thought just maybe …

So early one Sunday morning we made the trip to St Michael’s Mount and I took a small boat with a few strangers across the causeway. The castle and chapel are perched on an island that must be reached by boat except at low tide when a cobblestone pathway appears from the water inch by inch.

Once my feet touched dry land I was off at a brisk pace up a steep path of large uneven stones to the top of the mount to claim a seat in the tiny chapel next to the ghosts of the Benedictine Abby established on St Michael’s Mount in 966. On my way to the top I passed a group of woman who looked to be of retirement age chattering their greetings to one another and largely blocking the narrow path. “Ugh!” I thought as I nodded a tight polite smile to the four women who seemed oblivious to anyone else.

The sound of their voices stayed with me as I walked on a bit faster in an attempt to hang on to the place of stillness and contemplation I was trying to encourage in my head.

The ladies chattered on like the magpies who hang out in John’s garden as they followed behind me more quickly than I imagined they could for women with walking sticks. Suddenly, they seemed right behind me as I stood in the short aisle deciding where the best seat might be for seeing and hearing the service. Hearing them talk over the sounds of the pre-service organ music I decided on a seat as far from them as possible.

The ladies settled down as the service began and I adjusted my average-sized behind on the tiny cushion meant to provide a bit of padding. The small seats of the individual chairs were placed in tight rows possibly anticipating the crowds of people the church hoped to welcome, but the church interior remained largely empty with only fifteen to twenty people dotted round the sanctuary.

As hard as I tried to have an open mind and heart so that I might feel some spiritual connection, I could only think of the historical issues that have and still plague the religious institutions that try to minister to souls in need.

That would be me you see in the boat at the top, always questioning, but still searching. Somewhere there must be a community of people like me who are looking for something simple and honest that may only be found I think, in silence.

Don Henley, one of the members of The Eagles, a band I grew up with in the 70’s sang a song called, Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat! These are just a couple of verses of the song so you can get the picture.

I dreamed last night

I was on the boat to heaven

By some chance

I had brought my dice along

And there I stood

And I hollered someone fade me

But the passengers they knew right from wrong

And the people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

The people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Cause the devil will drag you under

By the sharp lapels of your checkered coat

Sit down Sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Oooh Oooh Oooh (scat)

Oooh Oooh Oooh

I suspect I’m not alone in my little boat so I’ll just keep on rowing for now.

10 thoughts on “I’ve Been Here Before – St Michael’s Mount

  1. That song was in Guys and Dolls many years before the Eagles I think! When I have expressed my feelings about the Bible to some people they get really upset. It’s a cross between the game of telephone and history. History when it was told by word of mouth for centuries probably got changed and exaggerated. When I go to church I still love the music. And the feeling of good will towards others. I do most of my talking to God privately thanking him for the joys in my life and this beautiful world.

  2. I hope to go to St. Michael’s Mount…I have beento, what I assume is it’s brother across the channel…Mont st. Michel. Gorgeous and amazing. Thank you for sharing your previous post which I had not read before. I grew up Catholic, right before college opened my heart to Christ, and have never been the same. I do so love God and call myself a Christian even when other believers in our Bible belt ask “What are you?” (meaning denomination) and I still stick to saying Christian and then rock my own boat saying….”non-denominational” (talk about looks sometimes)…Then the inevitable “Well, what church do you go to?” (as if they need to understand what I even mean by saying Christian) and when I name our church which is Baptist, and locally known as a near “charismatic” one at that, I have then gotten the “oooh, I see”. I am the type that loves God’s word, gets super encouraged to see and know believers that love in action as well as words, and choose to call church the group of people I am worshipping with and not the building. I always appreciate you sharing your honest thoughtful insights. and I liked it best when you said:
    “That would be me you see in the boat at the top, always questioning, but still searching. Somewhere there must be a community of people like me who are looking for something simple and honest that may only be found I think, in silence.” It brought to mind the scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 simple and honest is good. Thanks for reading and writing.

  3. First – this church looks absolutely magical…in that you have to time it with the tide’s ebb and flow. Altho not a particularly spiritual person – that in itself..is a spiritual experience.

    And second – I’m with you all the way on your feelings about organized religion. I’d be right there in that boat with you!!!

    Wonderful post!!!

  4. Lovely post. I would love to visit that church, it looks like an amazing experience.

    One of the things I’m grateful for is that my parents raised us to respect honest questions (from ourselves and others). Given the little that I know of your life experiences, I’d say you have valid reasons to question the presence of a loving God. Especially if you were raised by people who went to church, made you go to church, and did deeds of profound evil all the while. That’s a mind-warp for anyone.

    I appreciate your curiosity and honesty, and I know it sounds “Bible-belty”, but the God I know is one who also prefers an honest questioner over a hypocrite. (you may know Jesus’ “Woe to you…” speech. It’s to the religious leaders and he goes OFF on them.)

  5. Once I went in that row baot over to the Mount from Marazion. The French woman facing me suddenly looked a but startled and said under her breath ‘ oo la la.. ” I turned to see the fin of a dolphin going back down under water a mere 8 feet from the boat, very big and a bit intimidating. It and another dolphin were still snorting about in the bay when I reached the top of the Mount. Pretty amazing.

  6. As the organist on St. Michael’s Mount at least I’m pleased the music didn’t offend you! The chapel, as a family chapel, can vary in number widely. I often cross over looking at the state of the tide (less attend if it’s in) and try to guess how many will be there. We’ve been full to overflowing on many occasions. The service is always very straightforward with (hopefully) well known hymns. The organ music is almost totally C.18 as the instrument is almost unaltered.

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