English Cathedral Welcomes Visitors With Unexpected Message
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We were noodling around on the internet this week when we came across a welcome message from Coventry Cathedral in England, and we thought you might like to hear it. When visitors arrive, they'll see a sign on the door and it says this.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down-at-heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers. We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You're welcome here if you're just browsing, just woken up or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven't been to church since Christmas 10 years ago. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems, are down in the dumps or don't like organized religion. We're not that keen on it either. We offer welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.
We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, we thought that was really rather lovely and self-deprecating for a venerable old cathedral such as this one, so we rang up the Reverend Kathryn Fleming in Coventry to find out why it's there and where it came from.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
KATHRYN FLEMING: It's a pleasure.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So please tell us, how did this welcome message wind up on your front door?
FLEMING: Well, it's a slightly convoluted story, to be honest, because a few years ago, long before I came to Coventry, somebody sent it to me from - a friend in the States - and said, this sounds like you, Kathryn. And I kept it and included it in a sermon in 2015 as a kind of this is where I'd like us to be heading kind of aspirational goal.
And people liked it, so we put it on the front cover of our service booklet. And it then went slightly mad. Lots of people picked it up and were excited by it, and it became a thing. But of course, it wasn't mine originally at all.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have any idea where it came from?
FLEMING: Well, I received it first from a friend in the States. But in its last kind of flurry of activity on the internet, somebody contacted me and said they thought it came from a little church in Wales who had asked that whenever it was used people would just thank God for the writer.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously right now in the United Kingdom, in the United States, really in so many places in the world, there are so many divisions. It's a time of great worry and consternation, also hope. How do you think this message fits into that?
FLEMING: Well, for us at Coventry, our core calling is reconciliation. Our cathedral was bombed in 1940, and a new cathedral was built around the premise that we would work for peace and reconciliation. But our core message was not Father forgive them, but Father forgive all of us who mess up day by day. So it's about being a place where people can leave their differences at the door and come into conversation with one another and with God.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if anyone knows where this originally came from and you want to help us find out, you have any clues, you can go to WEEKEND EDITION's Facebook page and read it there. And please leave your comments. The Reverend Kathryn Fleming. She is canon pastor at Coventry Cathedral in England. Thank you so much.
FLEMING: Thank you.
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