On the eve of the final Cross of Nails presentation of this year, to the parish of Abbeydale and Millhouses in Sheffield, it’s a chance to reflect on what an incredibly busy year this has been! With a record number of new partners joining (17), two major gatherings in Coventry, visits from royalty and from the Archbishop of Canterbury, celebrations and reflections as Coventry Diocese and Cathedral mark their 100th anniversary, and a new baby sibling for the CCN, Together for Hope, being born, it has been full of blessings. All this, as well as plenty of day-to-day enquiries and people coming to visit our reconciliation ministry.
Our royal visit came in January, when we were all incredibly honoured to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) to Coventry on a stunning sunny day. They visited the ruins and new cathedral with our three Canons, met the staff of the social enterprise who run the ever-popular Rising Café in the Cathedral undercroft, heard Canon Sarah speak and met the choir.
We welcomed our third Cuban member, the First Baptist Church of Matanzas, in February, thanks to lots of relationship building on the part of the US Board and specifically Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in North Carolina. This was a really special and very memorable service, with the whole congregation literally taking a hold of the Cross of Nails and its significance. April brought us three more partners: the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship whose relationship with us grew in part from Canon Paul Oestreicher’s involvement; the Evangelisches Bildungswerk im Landkreis Esslingen, near Stuttgart, and St Clement Danes Church, the Central Church of the Royal Air Force, in central London, in the RAF’s own 100th anniversary year. Canon Sarah then travelled to the Holy Land in May with our reconciliation interns to Tantur Ecumenical Institute to present them with a replacement Cross and meet with some other partners in the area.
In early May we welcomed Flodden Peace Garden in Northumberland, a small but wonderful space for peace and reflection near the site of the biggest battle between Scotland and England in the 1500’s, and then we had a few months’ breather before the Evangelisch Lutherische Innenstadtgemeinde Rostock and the Anhaltische Diakonissenanstalt Dessau joined us in the same weekend in September. October brought the Church of St Michael the Archangel, Southampton into the fold, and November a mobile Cross to the Diakonie Neuendettelsau, presented at Coventry while they were here on pilgrimage, and the worldwide Mothers’ Union. Our final Cross this year will be presented very shortly (8th December) to the parish of Abbeydale and Millhouses in Sheffield – Canon Sarah’s former parish!
Quite aside from these partners, five new ICON schools have also joined us; three in Coventry diocese, and two in Devon.
Events and welcoming people to Coventry have been a major focus this year, and the Cathedral has been looking at its best with the Chapel of Unity finally repaired and unveiled and the path around it open! Seventeen young people from Germany, Austria, the UK, USA, South Africa, Mauritius, India and Eastern Europe attended our International Youth Gathering, which was such an inspiring and uplifting five days for all connected with it, with some fantastic friendships forged. Its spirit lives on in the brilliant daily videos which Tim Wagner made for us, viewable above and in our thought for the week gallery. Two months later, 65 people from right across our membership came to our International Members’ Gathering in Coventry, again for several days, with many good conversations and connections had and made. Around these were a full pilgrimage in May and shorter pilgrimage visits from Breukelen in the Netherlands, and Neuendettelsau in Germany, and various other short visits from contacts near and far.
The Cathedral and Diocese’s 100th anniversary has been a major focus for other parts of both organisations this year, and we’ve been really pleased to be a part of it, and for Reconciliation to have such a raised profile. Welcoming Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, back for an entire weekend of Diocese celebration in early May was wonderful, and it was really good that Flodden Peace Garden’s Cross (picture above) was able to be blessed by him in a major Cathedral service when he was here. It was also during this weekend that the Cathedral was once again able to throw open its doors to the public for free, something which Dean John has been working towards for some time and which with sustained donations and income from other areas we hope can continue going forward, particularly as the Cathedral is such a major focus for Coventry’s forthcoming year as UK City of Culture in 2021.
Later in May we launched Together for Hope, the CCN’s largely identical in scope but secular/multifaith sister organisation, a major development in our partnership building at Coventry and the climax of several years of planning and discussion. Faithful Friends, a group of various different faith leaders in Sandwell in Birmingham, the first partner, joined at the time of the launch, in a hugely inspiring and moving multifaith service in the new Cathedral, with a brand new ‘Pledge for Transformation’ written for the occasion and into the future as a secular / multifaith prayer in place of the Litany of Reconciliation.
Both the CCN and Together for Hope have a sizeable list of partners interested in joining in 2019, and both Alex Albans (Together for Hope Project Officer) and I look forward to continuing our growing ministry in the coming months. In the CCN’s case, this is greatly helped by the hard work, and in some instances very gratefully-received funding to Coventry, of the CCN Boards in Germany, the USA, South Africa, the Netherlands, Central & Eastern Europe, Asia, Canada and, very newly, the UK!
Our interns in 2017-18 were a particularly finely-tuned team, who have been instrumental in allowing us to deliver all this through their support, ideas and good humour – massive thanks to Stacy, Maite and Cerys! And welcome to Jack, Ricarda, Basha and Stacy for this year.
And as we come to the end of such a fulfilling but exhausting year, we are losing our Canon for Reconciliation to her new role as Vicar of Holy Island in Northumberland! Sarah has held on steady course a reconciliation ministry team that has been navigating a number of particularly major personal challenges this year, none of which seem to have impacted on the work that we have been called to do here in Coventry; but keeping us all together and in one piece has been no mean feat, and we will miss her so very much! But above all, we all wish her all the best in her new calling, and look forward to giving her an appropriate send-off during her last weekend here, 14th-16th December.
With our blessings as we look forward to 2019,
Alice Farnhill, CCN Project Officer