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 🙂
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.
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.
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,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’.