Dan Koski, a staff member of Tantur Ecumenical Institute, reflects on the journey towards membership in the Community of the Cross of Nails.
This past April, Tantur Ecumenical Institute of Jerusalem received its Cross of Nails from Coventry Cathedral’s Reconciliation Ministry. In a simple but moving service in the Holy Land’s only purpose-built ecumenical Christian chapel, Rev. Canon Dr. Sarah Hills of the Community of the Cross of Nails presented Tantur’s rector, Fr. Russ McDougall, C.S.C., with our cross as the symbol of our membership.
This moment has been a long time coming; so long, in fact, that the relationship predates the present involvement of virtually all clergy, staff and volunteers of both Tantur and the Reconciliation Ministry. While this lack of institutional memory can be a hindrance in some cases, it is also an indication of the guiding strength behind the vision of joining our respective missions through this ministry, a vision that is larger than any one individual or institutional era.
My involvement with this process began three years ago, when our present rector asked me to work on formalizing the process of Tantur becoming a full Community member following a pilgrimage to Jerusalem led by the Very Rev. John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral. Since then, I have sent been “sent to Coventry,” (an older English expression which implies ostracism) in a manner of speaking, on two occasions; the Spring 2016 and Autumn 2017 pilgrimages. Both have been memorable encounters which were filled with moments of reflection, learning and fellowship with others working or volunteering within parish and diocesan ministries, as well as educational, civil society and peacebuilding institutions, as well as offering me a chance to step away from the relentless pressures of life in conflict-torn Jerusalem and Bethlehem and find some peace in the quiet beauty in the gardens, ruins and places of worship in and around Coventry Cathedral. My own pilgrimage tradition while at Coventry is to spend time in reflection in the Chapel of the Madonna of Stalingrad, as it is known, where a copy of the illustration of the Virgin Mary and Child drawn by a military physician and chaplain attached to the Wehrmacht at the height of the horrors of the Siege of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942, is on display. There are few other images that capture the hope of light amongst darkness through the Nativity story as does the Stalingradmadonna, or convey the present circumstances of my adopted home city of Bethlehem, where I have lived and worked for almost a decade.
Upon returning from each visit, I have found that opportunities to share the story of the Cross of Nails within my work at the Institute are plentiful and feel anything but forced. Hundreds of program participants and visitors have shared in our reading of the Litany of Reconciliation, with the only problem usually being that I frequently have to run off more photocopies after every litany due to the number that are kept by our participants.
Contrary to that delightful English expression, “being sent to Coventry” on behalf of Tantur has been a privilege and a blessing. I am pleased to have played a small role in our reception into the Community of the Cross of Nails, and to see this relationship begin a new chapter.
Dan Koski is a permanent resident of Beit Jala, Palestine, and is Communications Director at Tantur Ecumenical institute. He has been informed that he is being sent to Coventry yet again this coming September for the 2018 CCN International Gathering. He can be reached at email@example.com.