Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life After Life After

With the advent of a new web site for The Cathedral of St. Paul, it seems a good time to resurrect this blog. Poking around the ruins took me a few weeks ago to Coventry Cathedral.  I was there as a part of my Doctor of Ministry in Preaching project, which has to do with preaching in cathedrals. After all, what could be more a ruin of Christendom than a cathedral?  And yet, cathedrals in the Church of England are experiencing an unanticipated vitality (see the report Spiritual Capital).  Does this have any significance for our cathedrals in North America?  What about our relatively small cathedrals around the Great Lakes?  And what, if anything, does this have to do with preaching in cathedrals these days?

I went to Coventry because of its unique setting with the bombed ruins of the former cathedral incorporated into the complex of the "new" cathedral built in 1962.  What an image of resurrection on the other side of Christendom!  And yet I found it was more complex than that.

N.T. Wright has been challenging the common understanding of life after death in recent years.  He contends that the biblical view is not so much about "life after death," as in going to heaven when you die, but rather, "life after life after death," or, as the Nicene Creed puts it, the resurrection of the dead.  What does this have to do with Coventry, or with us?

The "new" Coventry Cathedral is, in many ways, still a Christendom cathedral.  Large crowds of tourists and pilgrims came after it opened, out of curiosity for sure, but more significantly, because the ruins and the bold new building drew deeply on the older spiritual capital as well as the profound experiences and emotions of the WW II generation.  Now that all seems to have run its course.  Pilgrims (like me) still arrive, but not nearly as many, and resources are not available to support the scope and number of  local and international reconciliation initiatives undertaken in previous years.  Leaders there know this is a time to go deep and seek what the Spirit is stirring up now for Coventry's unique witness and mission.  Poking around these ruins, I wonder if many of us are at or approaching some kind of  "life after life after," signalling a time to go even deeper than we thought we would into what arises from the Cross and the Tomb.