A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
The Gospel According to Others
Coventry Cathedral Nave
19th October 2023 at 7.30pm
A one man show written and performed by Andrew Cullum, exploring the supporting characters' point of view of the Gospel narrative.
• King Herod has his own way to deal with a new born King.
• Joseph and his family are to become refugees.
• Nicodemus. A priest realises he knows nothing about God.
• Lazarus. Does he now believe in resurrection?
• Peter. What was it like to walk on water?
• Joseph of Arimathea. Did he take the boy Jesus on a foreign sea voyage? If he did, what did that friendship look like? What will he do with the empty tomb on his estate?
This is actor Andrew Cullum’s personal view of some peripheral characters in a familiar story. It is not the Gospel according to any of the better known writers, but the Gospel... According to Others.
TICKETS are available
Andrew is a member of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral.
THE MICHAELMAS SERVICE ended with a blessing. The priests, choirs and congregation then processed to stand before Epstein's statue of St Michael. Facing outwards towards the city they acclaimed -
The Lord commands his angels to keep you in all your ways. Give thanks to the Lord, all his angels, mighty in power, who
fulfil his command and heed the voice of his word. Give thanks to the Lord, all his hosts, his servants that do his will. Give thanks to the lord, all his works, in every place where he rules,
my soul, give thanks to the Lord, for he commands his angels, to
keep you in all your ways.
I am always moved on hearing the anthem “And There Was War In Heaven” composed by Neil Cox and commissioned by the Friends. This occasion was no exception.
The Cathedral Choir was joined by members of the Philharmonic Children’s Choir of Dresden, who returned to the Cathedral later in the day to join with the Cathedral Choir in a concert recital.
The Friends AGM 2023 elected
the following people to our governing body.
At the AGM on your behalf I thanked all members of the Friends Council for their help through the year. Thanks in particular to Deryck Horton, Michael Mogan and Fraser Watts as their terms of office come to an end.
There is room on the Friends Council for additional members. The Council meets four times a year. Do please get in touch with me if you would like to help, or if you know of someone with fresh ideas to contribute. If they are not yet a member, you might even persuade them to join! Together we can protect the heritage of Coventry Cathedral and make sure its message goes out to future generations.
Canon Adrian Daffern held our attention absolutely as he took us through the history of the Coronation. We learned things that few other people would be able to tell us, and we all now know just how much effort goes on behind the scenes of this major public occasion.
At the meeting we failed in our efforts to display Canon Daffern’s slides to the viewers on ZOOM for reasons that are not clear at present. The computer in the meeting room told us that everything was in good order – so why did it not tell the truth! I can only apologise for this failure to the members who relied on the ZOOM link, some of whom were unable to travel to Coventry because of the train strike. Members from as far as Bucharest and Germany joined the meeting on ZOOM.
On the morning of the Friends AGM I unpacked the new pull-up banner pictured here.
Can you spot the mistake?
The makers are providing a replacement.
THERE ARE NOT many of us today who eat our boiled eggs at breakfast from egg cups portraying our Cathedral!
The egg cups in this photo are over 100 years old, and pre-date Cathedral status. They were not tourist souvenirs, but were made for everyday use. The fact that they portray St Michael's Church and spire on ordinary household items demonstrates the great pride that was felt by Coventry people in this church.
Since the middle ages travellers and visitors have commented in books and diaries on the architecture of St Michael's Church and the soaring beauty of its spire. In the 1930s the only obstacle to a full appreciation of its architecture were other buildings that surrounded it closely and hemmed it in – many more buildings than are standing today.
The bombing of World War II flattened much of Coventry city centre. What is not always realised is that before the bombing there were widespread discussions of proposals to clear the city centre to enable the full beauty of St Michael’s Church and neighbouring Holy Trinity Church to be displayed. That was a growing, popular movement that finished with the outbreak of war.
The drawing below is an artist’s impression used in the years just before the war to illustrate what might be achieved by opening up the city centre. It looks vaguely familiar to those of us who know the modern Broadgate, but at the date of this drawing the open spaces shown on the drawing simply did not exist. In their place stood ancient narrow streets full of buildings.
The citizens' movement for change intended to show off with pride St Michael’s Church (made a Cathedral in 1918) in its full splendour. The change would enable it to become a focal point at the heart of a re-vamped city. Provost Howard, the founder of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral, was as proud of his Cathedral as any one and he wrote a number of supporting articles in the local press.
So the egg cups in the photographs are not just items for everyday use. They demonstrate the historic pride of the citizens of Coventry in St Michael’s Church, and serve to remind us of a pre-war movement for change that is long forgotten.
If you are enjoying this newsletter and are not yet a member of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral I invite you to join us today.
In the Friends we join together to support the ministry and buildings of Coventry Cathedral and help it continue speaking out to future generations.
Joining is easy by using the membership application form on the Friends of Coventry Cathedral website with easy online payment facilities.
You are very welcome.
MY COMMUNITY ENTRY Pass cowered at the back of the drawer I was tidying.
It reminded me that it was not so very long ago, in the days of Dean John Irvine, when in response to its financial crisis a Cathedral entry charge was introduced for visitors. The Community Entry Pass issued to a regular member of the Cathedral congregation enabled entry free of charges.
After charges were introduced there was a significant increase in donations per person, but only a relatively small increase in donations overall as the existence of entry charges deterred many others from entering. After all, Coventry Cathedral is quite distinct from other cathedrals. In Coventry visitors are able to walk freely around the Cathedral Ruins, which are at the heart of the Cathedral story. The glass wall that is our West Screen then provides all who freely pass by with a glorious view of the nave and Tapestry. The leaders of commercial tours soon cottoned on to this fact and advised their groups to save their money.
Entry charges ended with a fanfare in 2018, when Archbishop Justin Welby cut the ribbon to enter the building where he announced his pleasure at their abolition. (photo right)
Dean John Witcombe took up his Coventry post in 2011, and soon after his arrival he set himself the target of opening up the Cathedral freely to all. He launched the Investors In Hope scheme so that all of us who want to keep the Cathedral open can make it happen with a practical gift. Many members of the Friends reading this newsletter are part of that scheme today. The assistance of the Coventry Diocese was also key to soften the impact of the change over the transitional period.
What the Dean did not appreciate at the time was that in removing the entry charges he was following in the footsteps of a famous Coventry MP of the 19th century, who spoke out vehemently against entry charges for cathedrals. He was William Williams, a Radical who stood out against the Establishment in a way that follows what has almost become a Coventry tradition over the centuries.
In that Coventry tradition we all know the historic stories of the Coventry Martyrs and other dissenters, the Civil War origins of “being sent to Coventry”, and even Lady Godiva’s tale. A more recent example in local church life of the last Century was the vicar of St Peter’s, Hillfields (Rev P E T Widdrington) who held meetings of the local Fabian Society in his vicarage to discuss socialist economics on the basis of the teachings of Jesus. They were radical conversations at the time, that led eventually to the Christian Socialist Movement. These are just a few examples of Coventry people standing up to be counted and challenging the status quo.
William Williams represented Coventry in Parliament from 1835 to 1847. He was a member of no political party, and he was always a ‘man of the people’ in his approach to life. Where cathedrals are concerned, he campaigned for entry charges to be abolished and for cathedral opening hours to be extended in order to allow time for ordinary working people to enter the churches when they finished their work. In those days cathedrals usually opened their doors just between 10am and 3pm.
With regard to Cathedral entry charges, I have always shared his views, though when I attended a Cathedrals conference in Liverpool I learned from other delegates that there are differences between cathedrals on this subject.
Liverpool Cathedral has a clear policy that as a matter of principle it will never consider entry charges. That is because a large proportion of the funds for its construction were raised by appeals to the ordinary citizens of Liverpool – making it truly “a cathedral of the people”. On the other hand, Canterbury Cathedral has such a vast range of great historic property responsibilities and loan commitments that there are really no conceivable circumstances in which that Cathedral could drop entry charges. Circumstances vary, so the views I heard from other Cathedral delegates varied between these two positions.
At the time of Williams MP, historic records of Cathedral entry charges are sparse, but I learned that in 1845 St Paul’s Cathedral charged a 2d entry fee. In 1841 Westminster Abbey charged 3d for admittance to Poet’s Corner and the nave, as well as 1 shilling for entry to the chapels.
In the House of Commons our Coventry MP spoke passionately in support of a motion that “the practice of exacting fees from the public as the condition of their admittance to cathedrals is highly improper, and ought to be discontinued.”
He demanded free entry to cathedrals “to remove the stain upon the character of the clergy that attaches to them under the present system of requiring fees…. Cathedrals are public property and do not belong exclusively to the clergy, who derive large revenues from their exhibition.”
I must admit that my particular interest in William Williams MP has nothing to do with Cathedral entry charges, but it is because he was instrumental in the founding of my old University, the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.
William Williams MP: A photo of his bust (by kind permission of Robert Greetham) and an engraving from the London Illustrated News.
A founding committee of Welsh businessmen assembled in London on 1 December 1863 under his chairmanship campaigning to establish a University of Wales. The University opened in 1872 without any public funding from “the London Parliament”. For ten years it relied on donations from the ordinary people of Wales. Appeals for support were made from pulpits in chapels and churches across the country, and the congregations kept it going until the government finally voted funds. In that sense Aberystwyth was also ‘of the People’.
William Williams (12 February 1788 – 26 April 1865) was Coventry’s MP for twelve years. He spoke out on behalf of the man in the street so powerfully (and so often) that The Times newspaper christened him “theWilliams”. He was a self-made man who applied business sense to public proposals and attacked excessive payments to leaders in politics and elsewhere. He even succeeded in reducing the civic purse allowance granted to Prince Albert!
Having been brought up in Coventry I am proud of the Coventry tradition of open-minded thinking and independent action, and hope that it continues!
And my obsolete Community Entry Pass has reminded me of the debt owed to supporters of Investors In Hope who continue to keep Coventry Cathedral open for everyone today.
The Dean writes:
Investors in Hope was formally launched with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in 2017 with the ambition of raising the £100,000 per year needed at the time to keep the Cathedral open. We are so grateful for those individuals and local organisations, including both universities, who generously supported us and quickly enabled us to reach our target.
Over the last six years, most Investors have continued their support, raising over £0.5m and enabling us not just to keep the Cathedral open, but also to sustain free entry for all, which has been such a benefit to our life and ministry.
As a way of thanking them, and of helping them keep in touch with the life of the Cathedral, all Investors are given complimentary membership of the Friends, with the annual subscription transferred to the Friends from their regular Investor's contribution. Between the two organisations, we are able to achieve so much more than we could do without them!
Sister Margarete died on Tuesday morning, 5th September, aged 101. In 1965 she was the Deaconess who welcomed and cared for the volunteer group who were sent out to Dresden from Coventry to help with the rebuilding of the Deaconesses’ Hospital in Dresden.
Dorothy Knights, a member of the Friends, was one of the original volunteers working in Dresden. Dorothy writes:
Every time we visited the Deaconesses was special. We were constantly thanked for coming. Sister Margarete thanked me every time I rang, right up to my last call in April.
In 1981 she celebrated her 60th birthday. We invited her to England! She stayed in our homes. We drove her north to Martin and Natasha’s. Rebecca was born while she was there! Later visits included to Coventry Cathedral with Sister Anneliese and later, with her niece Steffi. Memories lasted a life time. In later years her poor eyesight led her to remove the pictures displayed in her room.
Jim and I enjoyed relaxing with Sister Margarete at Haus Salem. We enjoyed hearing the stories from the retired deaconesses as we shared meals with them. We joined in celebrations there and in the Motherhouse. I spent hours over the years listening to Sister Margarete talking about lives of people she had known. (above) Champagne on her 100th birthday Jim and I watched the opening of the Frauenkirche on TV with Sister Margarete and a friend. They had both been confirmed in the Frauenkirche.
I treasure this and know it was a privilege. Thank you, Schwester Margarete, for all the love you have shared with us. Dorothy and Jim Knights Sept 2023
What was the Dresden Project?
The bombing of Dresden in East Germany took place on Shrove Tuesday, 1945. Waves of British and American bombers dropped their payloads throughout the night. The intensity of the bombing created spontaneous combustion within a firestorm. The city was packed with refugees, making it impossible to know accurately the number who died. That number was so great that in order to clear the streets funeral pyres were set up in the city’s squares. This all took place at the end of the war by which time the bombing techniques of all sides had improved (sad to say) since the start of the war, which was when the Coventry Blitz took place.
Provost Bill Williams launched the Dresden Project as an act of reconciliation. He had arrived in Coventry in 1958 and immediately received invitations from across Europe to visit and speak about Reconciliation. He wanted to translate the words about Reconciliation into actions.
He launched an international appeal for funds. Donations came in from young and old across the country and across the world. Money came from the BBC Sunday morning appeal by Rabbi Lionel Blue, from a Cathedral concert by Yehudi Menuhin, and a large number of gifts from people who just knew and loved the City of Dresden before WWII. Money was sent as a memorial to Winston Churchill whose stated aim in the post-war world was reconciliation and peace. A group of Coventry children mounted a puppet show to raise funds, and nurses from Warneford Hospital in Leamington collected contributions. Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley held an exhibition of his paintings.
On March 14th 1965 at the 10.30 Communion Service thirty young men and women were commissioned and they left Coventry the same day to begin clearing the site. In Dresden they were joined by a dozen German volunteers. Work took place under the auspices of “Aktion Suhnezeichen” (Operation Reconciliation), an organisation established in 1958 by the youth wing of the German Lutheran Church. The organisation is now called Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ASF) and organises an international volunteer programme.
At the time Sister Margarete spoke of her astonishment that the government of East Germany had ever permitted the Dresden Project to take place. The Deaconesses all found it hard to believe that foreign visitors had been given so much freedom across East Germany. "The first reaction of nearly everyone here was that it would not happen. We were used to the fact that anything that was supposed to come from the State never came to anything. We didn't believe that it would come anywhere near, and then we were very surprised when it all happened so quickly. It was astonishing. But all the problems had been sorted out before we heard of it."
Some of the volunteers working at the Deaconesses Hospital.
Across the City of Dresden today the links with Coventry are well known and they are still greatly valued. With the death of Sister Margarete we lose the last historic link at the Deaconesses Hospital that reaches back to the start of the Dresden Project.
FOLLOWING THE RECENT success of Friends members in identifying the mystery man shown in an old Cathedral photo, I have been asked if anyone can identify either of the two sculptures shown in these photos?
Any idea of what they are and their date?
GREAT COASTAL RAILWAY Journeys, the BBC television programme presented by Michael Portillo, has visited Lindisfarne where it featured an interview with Coventry’s former Canon for Reconciliation, Rev. Canon Sarah Hills. In the conversation she refers to the Cathedral’s Ministry of Reconciliation.
I watched the programme on television last month, though I think it was a repeat from the previous year. If you would like to watch the programme on BBC Iplayer it is called “Great Coastal Railway Journeys” Series 1 Ep. 15 “Farne Islands to Berwick on Tweed”.
ALISTAIR STONE HAS been appointed Assistant Organist of Ripon Cathedral.
Alistair sang with Coventry Cathedral Choir under Kerry Beaumont, who was Director of Music at Ripon before he moved to Coventry.
IN NOVEMBER WHEN Bishop Christopher Cocksworth moves away from Coventry he will be replaced for one year by the Bishop of Taunton, Rt Rev Ruth Worsley (photo right) as the acting Diocesan Bishop. Her position is to cover the period while a replacement Diocesan Bishop is identified and appointed.
She will be based in Coventry, and will retain her post as Bishop of Taunton. She will be helped by the Bishop of Loughborough, Rt Rev Saju Muthalaly, who will act as Assistant Bishop.