A visit to Coventry Cathedral

The foundation stone of Coventry Cathedral © Ricky Yates

My apologies for not publishing anything new here for just over three weeks. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is that I’ve been continuing my promised ‘Summer clean’, now ‘Autumn clean’, of the Chaplaincy Flat – see my answer to question three in this earlier post. The latest place to receive my attention has been the kitchen. Every cupboard has been emptied, shelves and door-fronts cleaned, crockery and glassware which hasn’t been used for a long time, has been put through the dishwasher, and numerous foodstuffs well past their ‘use-by dates’, have been quietly disposed of. And then there was the cooker hood, the oven……

The second reason is that I spent the week from Tuesday 28th October – Monday 3rd November, in the UK, visiting my new grandson and his parents, and slightly belatedly celebrating my son Phillip’s thirtieth birthday. Whilst in the UK, I also re-visited the city where I was born and spent the first eighteen years of my life – Coventry, and in particular, Coventry Cathedral.

The laying of the foundation stone of the new Coventry Cathedral by HM Queen Elizabeth the Second on 23rd March 1956, is the earliest memory that I have. For as well as laying the foundation stone that day, the Queen, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, also visited the Jaguar Car factory in Browns Lane, the street where I lived until I was ten. Thus, the royal motorcade drove past our house twice – first on its way to the factory and then the later return journey. At the time, I was just four years old and didn’t recognise the Queen on the first occasion she passed by, as I was looking for a lady with a crown on her head :-)

Czechoslovak carved wooden crucifix © Ricky Yates

Czechoslovak carved wooden crucifix © Ricky Yates

 

 

 

Sadly, since I last visited nearly ten years ago, an entrance charge of £6.00, (recently reduced from £8.00), has been introduced for the new Cathedral, unless someone just wishes to pray or attend a service. The friendly lady on the reception desk kindly asked me if I had come to visit or to pray, to which I replied, “Both!” When I further explained, aided by my business card, that I was the Anglican Chaplain in Prague, originally a native of Coventry and that I had contributed six old pence towards one of the nave windows, her response was, “Well I’d better then let you in for free!”

I was very pleased to discover within the new Cathedral, a Czech connection of which I was previously totally unaware – this carved wooden crucifix. The adjacent notice in the photograph below, explains about the artist who created it and gave it to the Cathedral.

 

 

Explanation of the Czech Cross © Ricky Yates

Explanation of the Czech Cross © Ricky Yates

Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane © Ricky Yates

Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane © Ricky Yates

Other parts of the Cathedral were just as I remember them. One that I find particularly moving is the small side chapel of Christ in Gethsemane. The mosaic illustrates the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Take this cup of suffering from me”. Yet the chapel is screened by an iron grill in the shape of a crown of thorns, a reminder that Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will.

However, much as I like the new Cathedral, it is the ruins of the original mediaeval Cathedral – what remains following its destruction by Hitler’s incendiary bombs on the night of 14th November 1940, that speak most powerfully to me.

'Father Forgive' © Ricky Yates

‘Father Forgive’ © Ricky Yates

 

 

 

 

As I explained in a post in May 2012 when I appeared on Czech TV to speak about the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of the new Cathedral, not long after the bombing raid that destroyed so much of the mediaeval Cathedral, the Provost made a cross from two of the charred roof beams and erected it behind the altar and had the words. ‘Father forgive’ carved on the east wall of the old sanctuary.

For me, this is such a powerful symbol of the Christian message of reconciliation. Reconciliation between God and humankind – but also, reconciliation between nations and peoples who have previously been at war with each other. Therefore, I end this post with the words of the Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation.

 

 

 

 

 

‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,

Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,?

Father Forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,

Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,?

Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,?

Father Forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,?

Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,

Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’.

The ruins of the original mediaeval Coventry Cathedral © Ricky Yates

The ruins of the original mediaeval Coventry Cathedral © Ricky Yates

Another insight into Czech life and culture

The rocks and forests of the Czech countryside © Ricky Yates

Yesterday, I officiated at the burial of ashes of two people, a husband and wife, into the family grave. Whilst this is something I would quite regularly do when Rector of a group of North Oxfordshire villages, this was the first time of doing so in just over six years of ministry here in the Czech Republic. I have also only conducted four funerals during that time, a reflection of the predominantly young age of the English-speaking expatriate population resident here.

However, although I conducted yesterday’s graveside service in English, it was very much a Czech occasion and was an illustration of several aspects of Czech life and culture. And because I want to protect the privacy of the family, I hope readers will forgive me for not referring to people or exact . . . → Read More: Another insight into Czech life and culture

A little change for the better

Before © Ricky Yates

The photograph on the left, shows the top of the organ in Kostel sv Kliment/St. Clement’s Church, as it was until August 2014, and as it had been for all of the previously nearly six years I’ve been Chaplain to the English-speaking Anglican congregation in Prague. At the centre of the picture is a mirror on a stand, to enable the organist to see beyond the front wall of the balcony, and know what is going on at the front of the Church – in particular, to know when to stop playing once the administration of Communion is complete.

But because the mirror stand is not sufficiently high, it has been propped up on three music and four words editions of our hymn book. Over that time, I have often observed this set up and thought how wasteful it was. . . . → Read More: A little change for the better

Ceský Ráj

The view from Drábské svetnicky © Ricky Yates

 

 

 

 

Ceský Ráj, which literally translates into English as ‘Czech Paradise’ or ‘Bohemian Paradise’, is beautiful area of sandstone rocks and forests lying between 70-100 kilometres north east of Prague. Yesterday, on my first proper day-off for about a month, I took an 18 km walk through the western edge of Ceský Ráj, starting and finishing in the small town of Mnichovo Hradište.

After walking four kilometres from Mnichovo Hradište railway station, crossing the railway line, the Prague – Liberec motorway and then open fields, I reached the small village of Zásadka, which lies at the foot of the rocks. Here I enjoyed a traditional Czech lunch of Smažený sýr a hranolky, accompanied 0.5l of Svijany beer. Thus fortified, I set off further along the red waymarked route.

 

 

 

 

. . . → Read More: Ceský Ráj

The 2014 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod in Prague

St. Clement’s Anglican Episcopal Church, Prague © Ricky Yates

As I explained at the end of my post about the 2013 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod, the Prague Anglican Chaplaincy volunteered to host the 2014 Synod meeting. It was held last week between Thursday 25th – Sunday 28th September and I have to say that I’m still recovering from the experience!

In agreeing to host the Synod meeting in Prague, I wanted to overcome two issues. Firstly, long-standing Synod members had told me that when the Synod had last met in Prague, during the time of my predecessor, it had been held in a suburban hotel and attendees had felt rather isolated from the heart of the city. Secondly, when being solely based in a hotel, for example as we were in Izmir in 2009 and Athens in 2012, worship . . . → Read More: The 2014 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod in Prague