Leaving from a central point in London our tour’s first stop was Stratford on Avon, a name familiar to everyone who knows anything about William Shakespeare (1564-1616). He was England’s most famous writer and one of the world’s greatest dramatists, and he was born, went to school, married, died and was buried here, although his theatre work often took him to London. Stratford has become one of England’s premier tourist destinations and it doesn’t disappoint: the family home has become a museum of the Bard and life in his times, his wife’s house is a beautifully restored thatched cottage of the period, the town also has a theatre and the church and churchyard where his life ended. The river Avon, although not spectacular, adds to the town’s charm as do the many period streets.
The afternoon visit was in Coventry, which also stands out in my memory for one thing: the old and new St Michael’s Cathedral.
The city has had three cathedrals in the past 1000 years: the original church building was dedicated to St Mary, and the 14th century Gothic and post World War 2 buildings to St Michael, the arch-angel, slayer of Satan the dragon and protector of God’s people in the books of Daniel and Revelation’s and in early Christian legend.
The city’s heart and factories were attacked by the Luftwaffe and left in flames on 14 November 1940, but already on the following morning the church’s leaders decided to build a new St Michael’s that would become a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world and help the citizens of the Coventry to reject bitterness and despair. I found the two cathedrals a poignant and powerful Christian witness to the richness of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Throughout the ruins of the old cathedral there are Bible verses and other Christian statements that reminded me of the words and mind of Jesus when it comes to “slaying the Dragon”.
Perhaps a small and local witness but … what might be very different if we had more distinctively Christian attitudes and behaviour in personal, society and international conflict situations today?