It has been a week of blessings. Coventry ‘s commitment to peace and reconciliation around the world was reflected last Saturday when our Cross of Nails, to be presented to us just a few days later, was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby as part of Coventry Cathedral’s and Diocese’s centenary festivities. It was a deeply moving and poignant moment as he blessed it in the midst of a congregation of hundreds including these words:
“in the name of our Lord the Spirit ,
who rescues and restores us in peace;
we send this Cross of Nails to the Flodden Peace Centre
as a symbol of our partnership in the work of reconciliation;
for the glory of God
and the coming of his kingdom of justice and peace.
Flodden Peace Centre was opened on 8th May 2013, Red Cross Day, during the 500th anniversary year of the Battle of Flodden, a major battle between Scotland and England in 1513. The loss of life was appalling in just a few short hours –more than 10,000 slain; unimaginable carnage. This was the last major battle before the two countries were united under one crown peaceably and accidentally in 1603. The Peace Centre was the vision of Rev. David Herbert, now Synod Moderator, Northern Synod, United Reformed Church and Diana Herbert, his lovely, late wife. Rev. Herbert went to a meeting about marking ‘Flodden 500’ in different ways, and “A connection sparked in my head: faith/re-membering/Flodden/Crookham United Reformed Church/peace. By working for Peace in the world as it is today, Crookham United Reformed Church could play her part in contextualizing the bitter lesson of war with reference to Flodden on our doorstep. What would people think?”
The fact that you are reading this thought today shows Rev. Herbert’s thought has become a wonderful reality. The peace and reconciliation garden, open 24/7, is visited by people of all faiths and none. It is a garden designed “to grow people”. At the entrance is a black garden, which is a dark place to be. Next is the red garden, with red swords reminding us of conflict and confrontation. In its midst is a red cross reminding visitors that that the Red Cross and Red Crescent are to be found working impartially where there is conflict. In the grey garden there is a Weeping Pear, planted as a memorial to victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Feelings of loss and desolation are tangible here. At the corner is a white and gold garden from where a beautiful outside stained glass window can be seen, featuring Deacon James from the 7th century who brought the Gospel of Peace to these hills. The theme of peace continues as visitors journey around the garden looking at the stunning timeline, reflecting 500 years of conflict and peace. The last panel is “What will you do for peace?”
Last May I went on pilgrimage to Coventry and then spent time during my sabbatical visiting Partners of Cross of Nails churches in Leipzig, Monchengladbach, Cologne, 3 in Dresden and then 2 in Berlin: miles of thanks for your warm welcome and hospitality. What wonderful Partners in the Cross of Nails you all are and what a privilege it is to be with you and to continue learning from and being a pilgrim with you. I am looking forward to the international gathering in Coventry in September, and to welcoming you to Crookham in the years ahead.
On Tuesday Flodden Field was blessed as Canon Sarah Hills, Canon for Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, with Cerys, Stacy, Maite, her team of interns, and Northumbrian and Scottish residents visited and prayed the Coventry litany of reconciliation there. It was a powerful moment. Flodden Peace Centre itself was then further blessed when the sun shone on the garden, and there was a joyful and special service of peace and reconciliation. And so we at Flodden became the newest CCN Partner; the Cross of Nails was welcomed in both Crookham United Reformed Church and in Crookham village, which has about 60 inhabitants. Canon Sarah Hills spoke so inspirationally of peace walks and peace gardens and encouraged the growth and strengthening links with the Community of the Cross of Nails. Our ministry of reconciliation continues and deepens as our vision centres on 2 Corinthians 5 v18-19, remembering the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby’s message to begin with our own reconciliation with God, and only then can we be reconciled reconcilers.
We would love to hear from others in the Community of the Cross of Nails, and all are very welcome to come and visit us!
Revd Mary Taylor