Glorious sunny skies greeted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Coventry Cathedral today. They spent time mingling with an enthusiastic public in the Ruins, heard Coventry’s story, and met visiting schoolchildren, the choir, and visited the Cathedral’s Rising cafe, as well as prayed the Litany of Reconciliation, led by Bishop Christopher.
Canon Sarah also spoke in brief to introduce Coventry’s reconciliation ministry and the Community of the Cross of Nails – you can read the full text (of which excerpts were shared today) below:
Good morning Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Sarah Hills, and I’m the Canon for Reconciliation here at Coventry Cathedral. I stand before you as a mere individual at the heart of a mighty community of peacemakers. The Community of the Cross of Nails. A community of 70 years’ standing; a community stretched right around the world, in every continent. The Community of the Cross of Nails, its heart here at the Cathedral, was born out of our commitment to work for peace and reconciliation following the bombing of 1940, and the words of Provost Howard that Christmas, ‘that we build a more Christ-child like and kinder world’. Reconciliation is at the heart of who we are here in the cathedral, of what we do and how we live out our Christian faith. It is our mission and our hope. I often get asked, ‘so what is reconciliation?’ Well, reconciliation is about relationships, about making space for hope, above all, reconciliation is about loving our enemies. It is always a journey and it’s sometimes risky, often long, and always works better together. I might be the only one with Reconciliation in my job title, but thankfully I have a wonderful team…here are our interns who come for a year from Germany, the USA and the UK. And our staff members….a great bunch altogether!
The Community of the Cross of Nails is a community focused on this iconic Cross of Nails, and our Coventry story, which puts over 200 partners on a level playing field for peace. We all pray, share best practice and act for peace in our local contexts. Starting here in this iconic space where we live out this journey from the ruins into this new cathedral, from despair to hope, conflict to reconciliation, crucifixion to resurrection. Among our International Cross of Nails Schools, Amasango School in South Africa or Ibba Girls’ School in Sudan, regardless of resource or profile, stand alongside Blue Coat or Bablake schools here in Coventry; among our church partners the Baptist Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia holds hands with the likes of St Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero in New York and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin; and the youth charities Novi Most in Bosnia or New Generation in Burundi rub shoulders with the major global player Christian Aid. Last Easter I went on a peace walk in Northern Iraq with members of the Community of the Cross of Nails, along with local Muslim, Christian and Yazidi villagers and refugees…a creative and rather risky act of peacemaking…but with the prayers of the whole worldwide community supporting us..mind you, as well as an armed police escort!
Each week members of the Community share online a short reconciliation Thought or Inspiration which anyone can read or watch; members such as St Clement Danes Church, the central church of the RAF publicly debate peace with members such as the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship as part of our Coventry Conversations programme; many reconciliation visitors and pilgrims come to Coventry to experience our space and story, and we are asked to mediate and reconcile all sorts of conflicts in our communities locally, nationally and across the world. Through St Michaels House, our World Class Centre for Reconciliation, people attend courses, workshops and our Associates programme in order to learn about and practice peacemaking; every few years we host an international gathering where those working for peace and reconciliation with us get together to renew, refresh and rejuvenate, as well as remind ourselves about the roots of our Community. Our roots in this very special space. Our associates include the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wears this Cross daily, and His Holiness the Pope.
Indeed we often ponder, should we do more, say more, be bolder and louder: we are numerous enough and dispersed enough through the world. Perhaps. Because one thing is very certain – in a world of seemingly vanishing faith, increasing secularisation and divided society, the Community of the Cross of Nails is not dwindling – on the contrary, it is thriving. Going by our waiting list, there is an ever-expanding appetite for healing the wounds of history, celebrating diversity and building a culture of peace, across the generations.
Today’s world needs the strength of this Community more than ever, for a multitude of reconciliation needs, be they ongoing peaceful Northern Ireland relations, post-apartheid South Africa, deep-rooted Middle Eastern religious and cultural issues, or reconciling with historically abused indigenous communities in Canada, and many more here in Coventry, nationally and globally- and why? Because each partner is at the heart of a community of its own.
The world wants involvement more broadly as well – so much so that our secular and multifaith but otherwise similar baby sister member organisation, Together for Hope, will be born this spring, a little later than the new royal baby….our first partner will be a multifaith group of people working together to regenerate a deprived area of Sandwell, near Birmingham. Others such as a national Muslim charity are in the pipeline. We will be reaching out to those of no faith or other faiths, in order to reconcile together our broken world.
Coventry inspires all these; and we are inspired, and humbled, in turn, by such a breadth of interest in us. In a special 100th year for this Cathedral and diocese, not to mention the city of culture 2021, we take forward with our 200+ partners this unique community as it continues to grow. My prayer and my aim is that we can live and breathe our Coventry Reconciliation values of Learning how to disagree well , Being open to God’s grace, and searching together for justice, forgiveness, peace and healing. This year we will be launching 100 acts of peace! So please join us! Thank you.