As Brexit indecision continues, we hear from our Dutch CCN Board, from whom a number are due to join us on our Coventry CCN pilgrimage this week, about the inspiration that Coventry’s story provides in the Netherlands, in a growing sub-network that has a healthy momentum of its own!
Praying for peace – does it still make sense? In particular when democratically elected world leaders threaten others with violence, not hesitant to take up arms?
In The Netherlands, there is a growing number of places where the Litany of Peace and Reconciliation is prayed every week. Some twenty years ago, we started with two participants and in recent years, a new partner has joined our Dutch network every year, with around half of them formally partnered with Coventry thus far. Originally, the participating communities each shared traumatic war experiences (Nijmegen, Arnhem, Rotterdam), and the geography of the distribution of the partners shows the course of the front during World War II from 1940 to 1945. New communities rather seem motivated by aversion to war today.
Actually, it’s remarkable, such a revival. Issues of war and peace have kept coming up from time to time; here in the Netherlands there was a strong aversion to the deployment of nuclear weapons in the 1980s. Are we re-inventing the wheel? In Nijmegen, a Cross of Nails was discovered in the rebuilt tower of the Stevenskerk, given long ago and forgotten. When the current vicar became acquainted with our network and spoke about it in his parish, a church warden with a good memory told him about the presence of this Cross, which has now been relocated and has a function in the weekly prayer. And thus Coventry meets the demand for recognizable visibility, spiritual discipline and the feeling of belonging together internationally.
The ecumenical structure of the prayer tradition from Coventry proves to be another reason for the increase of the number of partners in our country: the Coventry groups that pop up across our country basically have an ecumenical character. The Coventry partner-groups that originate in our country tend to become subsidiary groups of the CCN through the Dutch network sometimes long before they formally partner with Coventry. The tie with Coventry is important but so is the fellowship and support of all the Dutch partners, of which there is soon to be a 16th, Breda.
As someone explained during our biannual gathering: “Friday is Coventry day, I go to the market then, buy the flowers for Sunday. I go to the Litany, have coffee with the others and then: let Sunday come’. Praying for peace, the search for allies in one’s own town or village, also across the borders of one’s own religion is a new form of inclusive spirituality. Prayer takes time, and above all, discipline.
A pilgrimage to Coventry, together with fellow-prayers from your own town as well as from other towns brings you into contact with the sources of that spirituality. We wish our friends this coming week a thought-provoking and prayerful pilgrimage.
Rev. Bert Kuipers, Chairman Coventryberaad Nederland (Dutch Coventry Consultation Group)