That was the notice we gladly displayed on the gate to the ruins last week, following the what our “new normal” might look like…
We had felt so necessary to the city in the week before lockdown, when people we had never met before found their way through the doors to share their fears and anxieties as we headed into the unknown. So many candles had burned and it was an immeasurable privilege to offer all those tangled thoughts and feelings to God, and to pray for each worried soul:
“May the love of the Lord Christ go with you wherever he may send you. May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you from the storms. May be bring you back rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you. May he bring you back rejoicing once again within our doors”.
Now people could be brought back once again within our doors….I was excited, hopeful…only, they mostly didn’t come. While the sun shone and there were queues for the newly re-opened shops just round the corner, the Cathedral was very quiet, though there was a ripple of excitement on Saturday when a young man proposed to his girlfriend in front of the charred cross in the ruins. A special place for a special moment – and a reassurance that we hadn’t quite been forgotten! Generally, though, it seemed that after long weeks of isolation and fear, the people of Coventry were so keen to put the bad times behind them that they were intent on picking up life exactly where they had left off…and for most of them, “where they had left off” did not include regular visits to the Cathedral.
But of course, while the building has been closed for all those long weeks, the Cathedral as God’s Church has been absolutely open for business, praying, listening, trying to share stories of hope and to foster community. Online worship has connected us with friends near and far, and brought us close to people whom we would never have met inside the building and for some of them, that accidental encounter as they scrolled through Facebook on a quiet morning might just be the start of a new journey with God. You can never tell how God might use the building next. On Monday, I watched a father and son apparently intent on taking photos in the nave, paused for a moment to read the prayer I’d placed by the Kiel Candle Globe. To my surprise, they then headed towards me: “You’re Canon Kathryn aren’t you. I have been joining you for worship every day since Lockdown began. Can we light a candle and pray together now?”
It seems that the ministry of presence matters as much online as in the real world…and I’m so thankful that our buildings act as sign-posts in both contexts, encouraging people to pause for a moment – and in that pause, perhaps, to hear God’s promise of a new start, of healing whatever the wounds of history.
The Reverend Canon Kathryn Fleming