A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
How should a King come?
Even a child knows the answer of course,
In a coach of gold with a pure white horse.
In the beautiful city in the prime of the day,
And the trumpets should cry
And the crowds make way.
And the flags fly high in the morning sun,
And the people all cheer for the sovereign one.
And everyone knows that's the way that it's done.
That's the way that a King should come. How should a King come?
Even a commoner understands,
He should come for His treasures,
And His houses and lands.
He should dine upon summer strawberries and milk,
And sleep upon bedclothes of satin and silk.
And high on a hill His castle should glow,
With the lights of the city like jewels below.
And everyone knows that's the way that it's done,
That's the way that a King should come. How should a King come?
On a star filled night into Bethlehem,
Rode a weary woman and a worried man.
And the only sound in the cobblestone street,
Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey's feet.
And a King lay hid in a virgin's womb,
And there were no crowds to see Him come.
At last in a barn in a manger of hay,
He came and God incarnate lay.
THIS MODERN CAROL was composed by Jimmy and Carol Owens in the USA, and I discovered it after a member of the Friends answered the question that I posed in last month’s newsletter.
Does anyone remember Pat Boone singing in Coventry Cathedral?
Bob Johnson remembers the Pat Boone concert well because he was part of the 100-strong choir that sang in the Christian musical “Come Together”. In the Cathedral performance Pat Boone was one of the narrators, and he also sang under the direction of the composer, Jimmy Owens.
This all happened in Coventry Cathedral on the evening of 19th September 1973. That night people of all ages packed the Cathedral, many standing in the aisles. There was an overflow audience that filled the Methodist Central Hall and its lower room. “Come Together” was described as “a musical experience in Christian worship, love and fellowship”. The whole audience was involved in worship as the performance drew together Christians from all denominations.
Pat Boone was in the UK for 10 days with a touring production of “Come Together” and Coventry Cathedral was high on the schedule. After the Coventry performance, Bob Johnson later joined the choir for two London performances.
It had all started a few years earlier one Sunday evening after service when Jimmy and Carol Owens were eating with Jack Hayford, Pastor of the Church on the Way, Los Angeles. Their Pastor suggested, “Why don’t you write a musical about our church?” This suggestion was not intended to focus on their particular church as much as it was meant to focus on the principles of ministry that had made the church successful. Jimmy and Carol began to write and soon felt it to be “a gift from God to the universal church”.
Within six months “Come Together” had spread locally, regionally, and then nationally across the USA, as churches decided to Come Together in their own performances.
In its time the musical was part of what was known in the USA as “The Jesus Movement”. At the same time in the UK a similar movement developed called “The Festival Of Light”, and organised mass rallies in Trafalgar Square and in Hyde Park. Its supporters reacted to the increasingly sexual and violent content of the media (called moral pollution) at a time when a number of politicians had become involved in sex scandals. In 1973 there were some 440 performances of “Come Together” in the UK, which indicates just how widespread was the movement’s support.
Jimmy and Carol Owens are Grammy and Dove nominated composers of some 250 published and recorded songs, including 12 musicals. “Come Together” was the first of their large arena Praise and Worship musicals, and the modern Christmas Carol printed above is one of their compositions.
Grateful thanks are due to Bob Johnson for answering my question and for sharing his experience with us all.
(left) "Come Together" was recorded by Word Records. (middle) Both Pat Boone and Jimmy Owens signed Bob's score. (right) Pat Boone in 1973.
Pride in our Past,
Faith in our Future
The Friends AGM on 5th November 2022 took this slogan as its theme. Originally written by Canon Kenyon Wright in 1980 for the first modern Coventry Peace Week, the slogan helped everyone present to value what the Friends have done in the recent past, and to resolve to do more as we move into 2023.
The inspiring life of STEPHEN VERNEY was placed before us by Rev David Barker (pictured left), who was himself a member of the Cathedral congregation in the 1960s.
When World War II broke out Stephen Verney was a pacifist who answered the call of his country, firstly, by working in the ambulance service of the Society of Friends.
He later joined the Political Warfare Executive and we learned details of some of his exploits – including his disguise as an injured peasant that gained him entry into the local hospital on Crete. There, under the noses of the German occupiers, he was able to conduct clandestine and successful negotiations for the withdrawal of the occupying Italian military force with its leader.
Some members present recalled Stephen’s wonderful work at Coventry Cathedral as a Residentiary Canon (1964 to 1970) that offered no hint of the wartime exploits he had left behind. I was pleased to welcome Stephen’s wife, Sandra, to our meeting.
The Friends have copies of the paperback “Snakes And Ladders” by Stephen Verney for sale at the bargain price of £5. Postage extra. The writer reflects on his whole life – his childhood, his army service, his ordination, his time in Coventry and his service as a Bishop. An inspiring read.
The Friends Council membership following the AGM is detailed above.
A SIMPLE LEAFLET about the Cathedral has been prepared for non-English speaking visitors, and the hunt is now on for volunteers to translate it.
Do you know of someone who could help to translate it into German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, and maybe Ukrainian or Russian or another similar Eastern European language? Or other languages?
If you know of someone who can help, please get in touch with Carla who looks after the Cathedral's facilities for visitors. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]
ONE OF THE highlights of last month’s RISING Global Peace Forum was a live link interview with a leading member of the Ukranian Parliament. Volodymyr Groysman was Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2016 to 2019. His live interview was assisted by an interpreter sitting on the chancel step alongside the questioner. (see photo) In discussion he explained how much his country appreciated the help received from other European countries and explained that its intentions are not to attack Russia but simply to recover those parts of Ukraine that have been occupied by the aggressor.
Direct aid. Tony Cleary, a member of Coventry Cathedral Choir, drove across Europe in one of the two pictured ambulances that were bought for Ukraine. The other was driven by Dawid from the Polish Catholic Mission.
After a day's driving they reached the Czech border where the ambulances were serviced free of charge by a supportive international car parts company before completing the final leg into Ukraine. The funds to buy the ambulances were raised by private donations.
OPPOSITE THE CATHEDRAL main entrance steps, work has begun to demolish the Alan Berry Building of Coventry University. A replacement University administration building will be constructed on the site opposite Coventry Council House.
As you see from the architect’s drawing below, the aim is to open up the views of the Cathedral from the University campus. The demolished building will be replaced with garden lawns.
A focal point of the new landscaping will be a Phoenix Tree Sculpture at the centre of a Peace Garden. George Wagstaffe, a Coventry artist, has been commissioned to create a work that draws upon his experiences as a blitz survivor and that pays tribute to the City’s three spires.
George’s other public works include The Naiad that is sited in the Upper Precinct, and The Phoenix in Bull Yard, off Hertford Street.
THE BRIDGEMAN MEMORIAL on the walls of the Cathedral Ruins collapsed in October. This was quite a shock as it was only in 2019 that the memorial was the subject of grant-aided conservation works.
The Cathedral Chapter now awaits the report on the cause of the collapse from Skillington Workshop, the firm that undertook the conservation.
The history behind the Bridgeman memorial is fascinating as it commemorates Mary Bridgeman, whose family for several generations played an important part in the civic life of Coventry. The memorial was erected in accordance with the wishes of Mrs Eliza Samwell who died on 5th June 1724, and who (in the words on the monument) wished to honour the life of Dame Mary Bridgeman and “Ordered this Monument to be Erected as a Remembrance of their Great and Long Friendship.” Eliza was related to Mary by marriage and she died unmarried herself. I can discover little more about Eliza, save that Sir Thomas Samwell, her brother, served as MP for Coventry in 1715.
Mary Bridgeman, who died on the 8th June 1701, had an aristocratic background and the Bridgeman family were prominent in Coventry. Her son was later embroiled in a major public scandal.
Mary was the only daughter of Sir Thomas Cave, a Baron. She married Sir Orlando Bridgeman, whose father was also a Baron. Her husband was a 2nd son and did not inherit his father’s title, but in 1673 Charles II appointed him Baron of Ridley in his own right. He served as MP for Horsham and as a Parliamentary Commissioner for Assessment in Warwickshire and in Coventry. He died on 20th April 1701, and both he and Mary were buried in the Bridgeman family vault that lay beneath St Michael’s Church (on the north side near the Wyley Chapel).
Old records show that for the use of the Bridgeman vault a 10 guineas fine was paid and an annual rent of 5s. was paid to the church until 1718 when the rent was discontinued. Lady Bridgeman’s generosity towards St Michael’s Church is on record with her gift in 1678 of a carpet of red silk damask, with a silk and silver fringe for the pulpit and a damask table cloth and napkin.
Lady Bridgeman gave birth to two daughters and a son. Her son inherited the baronetcy upon the death of his father, whose name he shared. Orlando Bridgeman lived in a large house in Little Park Street shown on the right. In 1707 he stood as a Whig at the English general election and was elected to represent Coventry. He was defeated in Coventry at the 1710 election but went on to represent Calne, Lostwithiel, Bletchingley and Dunwich.
Sadly, his career ended in public scandal. (Echoes of John Stonehouse?)
In order to finance the building of a new house, Bridgeman took on massive loans that became massive debts that were pursued against him through the courts. In 1737, after a great deal of petitioning he was appointed Governor of Barbados, a lucrative position that should have rescued his situation. Unfortunately, he never arrived in Barbados but disappeared before sailing.
Bridgeman left farewell letters to his family and to the King and his clothes were found on the banks of the River Thames. On 10th June 1738, a body was found drowned in the Thames near Limehouse and because it had been disfigured by the water, the body was wrongly identified as Bridgeman's.
Bridgeman’s creditors had advertised a reward for any information about the circumstances of the death. The reward produced evidence that in October 1738 led to the discovery that Bridgeman was living secretly in an inn at Slough. He had falsified his death in an attempt to avoid his creditors.
In 1739 Bridgeman's principal creditor, Richard Long, acquired Bridgeman’s estate by a Chancery Decree, so he was penniless. In 1746 Bridgeman died in Gloucester gaol. His only son had pre-deceased him, so the baronetcy failed.
The Bridgeman Memorial is not only part of the Cathedral Ruins but it is a reminder of a family that played a significant part in the civic life of Coventry, so I hope that it can be saved.
Monday, December 19, 2022
To take advantage of FRIENDS SPECIAL PRICES for Coventry Cathedral Chorus concerts please order them from Jill Pacey who is the singer responsible for direct ticket sales. Her email address is [email protected]
Peace and Goodwill
AS WE APPROACH the season of Peace and Goodwill it is appropriate timing for Canon Paul Oestreicher to receive the award of an MBE “for services to Peace, Human Rights and Reconciliation”.
The Order of the British Empire was presented to Paul by Her Excellency Iona Thomas at the Residence of the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand. It was accompanied by the citation signed by Queen Elizabeth in her last honours list.
Paul was a Canon Residentiary at Coventry Cathedral from 1985 to 1997 as Director of the International Ministry, and is now living in New Zealand in his retirement.
Paul has been an active campaigner throughout his life. He is a Vice-President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and has served as the Chair of Amnesty International UK. In church life he was a member of the General Synod of the Church of England (1970-81 and 1995-97) and from 1981 to 1985 he was Director of the Division of International Affairs of the British Council of Churches. He was co-founder of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship in New Zealand.
I stop now as I simply cannot do justice to all that Paul has done in his life. I simply add my congratulations.
Paul is pictured after the presentation ceremony
with his wife, Barbara, Professor Emerita of
New constitution. Each UK cathedral is having to change its constitution and register its details with the Charity Commisssion.
In Coventry Cathedral the draft constitution has now been prepared and there will be a formal 28 day consultation period starting on 3rd January 2023. On that date notices will be posted throughout the Cathedral and a consultation website will be established. Printed copies of the proposed new Constitution and Statutes will be available at the Welcome desk for people to read.
Just before Christmas God was looking down at Earth and saw all the evil that was going on. He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out. He called one of His best angels and sent the angel down to Earth. When she returned she told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth. 95% is bad and 5% is good.”
He thought for a moment, “Perhaps I should send down another angel to get a second opinion.” God called another angel and sent her to Earth for a time too. When the angel returned she reported to God, “Yes, the Earth is in decline. 95% is bad and 5% is good.”
God decided to do something about this state of affairs. He would email the 5% who are good to encourage them and give them a little something to help them keep going.