By The Very Reverend Shane Parker, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa

Last week something new was added to the 45-year history of Coventry Cathedral’s Community of the Cross of Nails. For the very first time, a CCN pilgrimage was expressly interreligious, combining partners from both the international CCN network and the Cathedral’s new “Together for Hope” network. I was very privileged to be a participant and assisting leader in this new venture.

For three days, 18 individuals from five organisations, representing five religions (Zen Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and several Christian denominations) shared time together, listening respectfully to one another’s experiences and perspectives on reconciliation. We heard of the challenges and opportunities for reconciliation in Germany and Canada, as well as in communities, centres, cathedrals, and hospitals in the UK.

It was a great joy to meet the skilled and sensitive chaplains of the Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Trust Chaplaincy, who bring much front-line experience of diversity to our understanding of reconciliation. And it was truly a pleasure to welcome the spirited “Faithful Friends” of Smethwick—the first Together for Hope Partners—into our discussions, and to hear of their remarkable journey of interfaith reconciliation and friendship.

The pilgrimage began and ended with sharing in the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation before the charred cross in the ruins, and joining in the Pledge for Transformation before the reconciliation statue. It was moving to stand as a very diverse group, united in our concern for a reconciled world—and to gather many willing tourists into this circle of hope.

The traditional “Hilltop pilgrimage walk”, was substantially modified as an interfaith pilgrimage, with prayers from each religious tradition being offered as we moved through the four sacred sites—reflecting on what it means to move from division to community, from pain to healing, from despair to hope, from death to life.

We formally and joyfully welcomed the Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Trust Chaplaincy in London as prospective CCN and T4H partners (they will join both networks on 3rd July), and their Cross of Nails and Together for Hope plaque were respectively blessed and commissioned in the presence of a number of the chaplaincy team here on pilgrimage. It was also a pleasure to bless a Cross of Nails to our three youngest pilgrims from Evangelisches Jugendwerk Bezirk Öhringen in Germany, for presenting to them in October.

In keeping with the long tradition of CCN pilgrimages, this first CCN-T4H pilgrimage was made rich by the participants’ willingness to share their stories with one another in a spirit of respect and trust, allowing meaningful relationships to quickly form, and enabling mutual learning about the journey of reconciliation.

I conclude by commending to you Together for Hope’s own Pledge for Transformation, applicable to those of all faiths or none:

A Pledge for Transformation – Together for Hope

For love, which heals wounds,

we will stand.

For generosity, which opens space for hope,

we will stand.

For nurturing, which builds a culture of peace,

we will stand.

For compassion, which seeks the best for all,

we will stand.

For respect, which enables us to love with difference,

we will stand.

For humility, which allows healthy relationships with others,

we will stand.

Together for hope,

we will stand.

CCN Thought for the Week for 3rd June – reflections on a joyous first CCN/Interfaith pilgrimage at Coventry
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