Americans in London can experience a grand worship service in one of the city’s most famous sights while honoring an American tradition.
For the many American expatriates living in London or for American tourists traveling in London during the Thanksgiving holidays, observation of the American holiday can be problematic. Thanksgiving is a time when most Americans want an opportunity to give thanks for their many blessings, and they want to be among other Americans while celebrating their own country and its traditions.
One of the grandest opportunities to celebrate Thanksgiving in London is to attend the Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. On Thanksgiving St. Paul’s Cathedral is full of Americans. In 2016 the attendance was an estimated 2000. The service is held in mid morning and pews fill up fast. While no ticket is required, those attending the service are urged to arrive early in order to have the time to pass through security.
The service begins with a processional to the front pews by the American ambassador and his wife. Members of the armed forces march up the aisle bearing flags including the familiar American flag with its stars and stripes.
The choirs at the service include combined choirs from the American and International interdenominational Christian congregations in and around London. Those attending the service sing several familiar Thanksgiving hymns, like “Come Ye Thankful People Come” and “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.” The sermon is given by the current pastor of the American Church of London.
Relationship with Americans
The Cathedral has a special relationship with Americans. In 1903 the American financier Pierpont Morgan donated funds to bring electricity to the structure. Then after World War II the British people raised funds to rebuild the American Memorial Chapel which had been damaged by bombs in the war.
In 1951, President Eisenhower presented a book to the American Memorial Chapel containing the names of 28,000 Americans who died while fighting for freedom in Britain in World War II. Images in the Chapel include flora and fauna of North America and also references to American historical events. The wooden panels depict a rocket signifying America’s achievements in space.
After attending the service, Americans looking for a traditional Thanksgiving meal have several choices of restaurants. While in the past Americans had difficulty finding a Thanksgiving meal, today computer search engines make the search easy. Among the choices are the more affordable Hardrock Cafe, the first of the Hard Rock chain of restaurants, to the higher priced but very English Albermarle Restaurant inside Brown’s Hotel, also known to Americans for its high teas.
At the end of the day after attending a regal American Thanksgiving service in the impressive St. Paul’s Cathedral and eating a traditional Thanksgiving meal, Americans will feel they have celebrated their holiday in style.