Weekend II- Coventry Cathedral
I wasn’t entirely taken with the City of Coventry – it seems like an illogical maze of random streets and buildings mashed together with people beamed in. I did only rush through the streets to Costa Coffee and then on to the Cathedral so my first impressions are just that – impressions; barely formed. The company of my three friends was, however, lovely.
There are two Cathedrals in Coventry -the ruin and then leading into the ruins is the new Cathedral.
It is extraordinary to see the new and old so close together, so bound. The cathedral in ruins is a poignant reminder of the price of sacrifice. The morning after the night of 14th November 1940 when the Cathedral was bombed, the Dean Richard Howard vowed that there would not be revenge and retaliation but peace and reconciliation and the cathedral would be rebuilt. The new Cathedral was designed by Basil Spence and the foundation stone laid in May 1962.
We arrived early for Evening Song and had a little look around the Cathedral. The cathedral’s stain glass baptistery window (the rising sun illuminates the font) is amazing. As you walk over to the little chapel (which I stepped very briefly into before changing my mind– I will save that for next time) and turn around it looks as if the sun is hanging there. John Piper designed it to be ‘the light of truth breaking through the darkness and confusion’
Behind the alter is another stunning piece where Graham Sutherland’s tapestry hangs. It is the size of a tennis court and there is no denying that the height of the Cathedral is used in its full splendour. I was really taken with the organ pipes on each side climbing up to the ceiling. The Tapestry has, apparently, become a symbol of how the cathedral is willing to embrace new ideas and step away from tradition.
There weren’t many people in the congregation and I sat wishing it was St James’ choir in Weybridge engaging us in the music in this space. Not really very grateful of me of the choir and organist before me, but that was what I thought.
The service was interesting – 40minutes said the service sheet 60 minutes said reality. Church music has always drummed a rhythm on my heart but that aside I found myself sitting in the world between faith and reason. There was so much I wanted to do but being British I sat as nicely as I could.
I KNOW this evening song was to be an art form where the congregation don’t engage but rather ‘be’ and meditate but I couldn’t help feel I was watching the world from inside a glass bottle in a time warp. Is that all the church is – an archaic institution representing God that is man made? It shouldn’t be, but somewhere something has lost or is losing the way – me perhaps. I sat and saw the traditions of church as many see them; archaic... Yet there is so much more, so many more dimensions.
Surrounded by the Cathedral, the ‘feeling’ and the inner beat of my heart I felt sure there just had to be more. What we see in the building and what we see in the world have been misinterpreted and I am not sure the truth can be found as easily as it is judged.