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The Life and Legacy of Cyrille Regis
Cyrille Regis MBE (1958-2018)

Nearly a thousand people gathered in Coventry Cathedral on Sunday 4th March to celebrate the life and legacy of Cyrille Regis MBE. Cyrille died of a heart attack on January 14 aged just 59. The service paid tribute to three important areas of his life: football, family and faith.

The Dean of Coventry, the Very Reverend John Witcombe, welcomed everyone to their Cathedral and said:

"Thank you and well done for braving it through the snow and ice.  We were all shocked and saddened to hear of Cyrille’s death.  Following the service at the Hawthorns, there was a desire for a service in Coventry.  We are privileged to have Julia here and other members of his family.  He was an extraordinary man who did so much on and off the field."

Football, family and faith

The cathedral service had three main parts:

  • Football, with tributes from Brendon Batson and Greg Downs;
  • Family, with tributes from Cyrille's wife and children;
  • Faith, with an address by the Archbishop of York.

The service concluded with Sandra Godley singing of the Sky Blues Song.  Neville Staple and Christine Sugary Staple then sang 'A Message To You Rudy', which was a hit in the UK during a time when there were high racial tensions.

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
Introduction to the Archbishop of York

The Bishop of Coventry introduced the Archbishop of York by saying:

"Dear Friends, it’s my privilege now to introduce to you his Grace, the Archbishop of York, who’s going to tell us more about this person who transformed Cyrille’s life – Jesus Christ – and whom he followed and placed his faith in. 

When I first approached the Archbishop about this service all I was hoping for was a word of greeting to put into the Order of Service. But immediately, instinctively the Archbishop said – if I’m free, I’ll come! 

And he’s come, through the snow to Coventry to be with us. And that makes me very glad because, as two towering figures of British Christianity, the Archbishop and Cyrille represent the vitality of black Christians in our country, a spiritual energy that gives life to the Church in this land. They’ve both played a leading part in facing the evils of racism in all levels of British society and defeating them by the brilliance of their own gifts, the strength of their characters and the power of God’s love – and consigned it to history, as the Lord Mayor so eloquently said.

I used to stand on the terraces in the 70’s and I heard some terrible things said and chanted when the ball came to a black player’s foot. Racism in the Church was not as blatant but it was present nonetheless. The worst stories I’ve heard was when Christian families full of faith and love turned up at the door of their parish church and were told that their church was down the road. I pray God that never happened in Coventry or in any of the churches for which I am now responsible. But if it did, I repent of it, and I repent as much of every other more subtle way that white Christians have used to keep black Christians at arm’s length, and I ask forgiveness for it.

Society, Football, the Church are very different today and the Church – as we can see – is rich with the gifts of black Christians. I was in one of my parishes this morning that was a wonderful mix of people from many racial backgrounds.

But as I look at my Church, the Church of England – and I know many other churches are better than mine but as I look at mine – I don’t see enough black Christians in positions of influence and leadership, and I want to say that Cyrille’s legacy for me is to do everything in my power to put that right – to get the sort of faith and integrity of character that he represented into every inch of the Church’s life.

So I’m delighted to hand you over to John Sentamu. He’s one of my spiritual fathers. He brings a razor-sharp intelligence, a heart full of joy and compassion, a faith infectious with love for Jesus Christ. He gives so much to the life of the Church of England and the nation, and like Cyrille is a role model for every human being who wants to live well, whatever their colour, creed or background – so that they can be, in Julia’s [Regis] beautiful words, 'the best version of themselves'."