A church with a story with so many parallels with Coventry’s own story commemmorated the 75th anniversary of its destruction last weekend – German speakers can see the local news report of the story and event. The magnificent Ludwigskirche in Saarbrücken also took the opportunity to become our latest CCN partner, and Canon David Stone attended the whole weekend to welcome them into the network.
“Thank you for the warmth of your welcome and hospitality. It is a great pleasure to be with you here this evening. I bring you warm greetings from the city of Coventry in the centre of England and from its Cathedral in particular.
Every now and then, somebody makes a decision whose consequences are more significant than they could possibly have imagined. Such an individual was Dick Howard, Provost of Coventry Cathedral from 1933 to 1958. During the night of November 14th 1940 he worked tirelessly to battle against the flames that were consuming his beloved Cathedral during the bombing of Coventry known as ‘Operation Mondscheinsonate’, ‘Operation Moonlight Sonata’. His efforts were in vain. He and those working alongside him were defeated. Destruction had the upper hand that night, an event we commemorate to this day – just as you look back to October 5th 1944.
In Coventry November 15th 1940 is also a special date to remember. The day after the night before. When Provost Howard found it within his heart to express the willingness to forgive, the desire to reconcile, the passion to reach out and make friends with his enemies. The flames that had destroyed his beloved Cathedral did not destroy him. He was able to extinguish any thoughts of retaliation and revenge. Instead he set himself the task, once the war was over, to build bridges of reconciliation and so turn enemies into friends.
And so began Coventry Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation, now expressed in over 200 places around the world through the Community of the Cross of Nails, to which the Ludwigskirche is to be admitted tomorrow.
I want to say to you that the current turmoil in the relationship between the United Kingdom and her partners in the European Union makes the bonds of friendship we forge through organisations such as the Community of the Cross of Nails even more vital. This evening, through the gift of music, we are celebrating that which binds us together – our common humanity, our particular shared experience of the suffering and horror of war, our passion for peace and friendship. And we want to affirm that these things are stronger than the forces that would drive us apart.
It is a real privilege to be able to represent Coventry this evening.
My thoughts in closing turn to the Cross of Nails which I shall be presenting at the Ludwigskirche tomorrow morning. The Community of the Cross of Nails is at its best when it inspires and involves the individuals who belong to its partner churches and organisations.
So may that Cross find space in your heart and mine. The cross which speaks of the love of God embracing all humanity. The cross which speaks of the power of God transforming suffering. The cross which speaks of the invitation of God urging us to be partners with him in pursuing peace and holding out hope in his hurt and hurting world. Thank you.
Canon David Stone, Canon Precentor, Coventry Cathedral