Coventry Cathedral is one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation. Following the destruction of the Cathedral in 1940, Provost Howard made a commitment not to revenge, but to forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.
Using a national radio broadcast from the cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 he declared that when the war was over he would work with those who had been enemies “to build a kinder, more Christ-child-like world.”
It was this moral and prophetic vision which led to Coventry Cathedral’s development as a world Centre for Reconciliation, which over the years has provided inspiration and support to many Christians addressing ongoing conflict in contemporary society.
A major part of this ministry was the establishment of the Community of the Cross of Nails, which today is an international network of over 170 CCN Partners in 35 countries committed to a shared ministry of reconciliation.
As the spiritual home of the Community of the Cross of Nails, St Michael’s House has been launched as a dedicated space for skills-based learning and intellectual encounter alongside theological reflection and spiritual resources for reconciliation. St Michael’s House is also a dedicated space for facilitating conversations around questions of identity, difference and conflict in the church and wider society.
Today the medieval ruins of Coventry Cathedral continue to remind us of our human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation. In 2011, the ruins were designated as a memorial to all civilians killed, injured or traumatised by war and violent conflict world-wide. In order to commemorate these civilians, the Cathedral chose six themes to guide its focus: aerial bombing, refugees, sexual violence as a result of war, land mines, child soldiers, and the environmental impact of war. The Coventry Cathedral Memorial Ruins project seeks to commemorate these six themes and to act as an advocate and platform in raising awareness of these issues through the use and implementation of art, education material, prayer and worship.
The Cathedral’s work for reconciliation has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and long-standing areas of conflict. Building on this experience we are committed to develop our ministry as a centre for excellence to resource the church in the practical outworking of reconciliation as an integral part of Christian worship, witness and discipleship.
The Community of the Cross of Nails
The Coventry Cross of Nails is a powerful and inspirational symbol worldwide of forgiveness and reconciliation. In post conflict Europe of the 1950’s and 60’s, the presentation of a Cross of Nails to churches in Kiel, Dresden, Berlin and other cities destroyed by Allied bombing, symbolized peace and the growing trust and partnership that developed.
By the 1970’s this courageous vision began to spread to other areas of conflict and the Community of the Cross of Nails was formed in 1974. There are now 170 CCN Partners around the world drawn together by the Coventry story and working for peace and reconciliation within their own communities and countries.
Their work is demanding and diverse. It may focus on issues of politics, race, religion, economics, environment, sexual orientation or personal animosity. It can have broad and far-reaching, national consequences, or it can make significant difference to individual lives.
Partners can be churches, peace organizations, reconciliation initiatives, NGOs and educational centres, any body of people who have a heart and a need to pursue reconciliation in their own lives and the lives of others.
CCN Partners in Germany, Netherlands and the USA have a national board. Others link to support each other on a regional, country or citywide basis. They are to be found from Africa to Australia, Europe to Asia: truly a global network. Together CCN Partners are committed to learn from and support each other – practically and prayerfully.
For further information about the work of the Community of the Cross of Nails have a look at its dedicated website here.
Coventry Cathedral Memorial Ruins – ‘A Witness to Hope and Healing‘
The ruined shell of the fine medieval Cathedral of St Michael has become a spiritual home for many. This special place reminds us of our human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation. The ruins speak so powerfully of this message that they have become a place of pilgrimage for people of all cultures and faiths. As well as providing a tranquil space for reflection, they are the City’s most important landmark and symbolic of its own destruction and resurrection.
We are seeking to give focus and further purpose to the ruins in the 21st Century by designating them as a memorial to all civilians killed, injured or traumatised by war and violent conflict worldwide.
Civilians are the unspoken targets and forgotten casualties of war. In the last century, tens of millions of civilians were caught in the turmoil of armed conflict. In a world that still fails to find peaceful alternatives to violent means of resolving its disputes, we want to create a living testament to the tragic consequences of this lack of moral imagination.
We believe that Coventry’s Cathedral Ruins can become a witness to this suffering and a catalyst for positive action. Our plan is to use a combination of art, educational material, prayer and worship to explore the impact of conflict on our world today and challenge the prevailing culture of war. We want this to be a place of pilgrimage where people of all faiths and nationalities can come to remember their own personal loss or that of their community. Through commemoration, conservation and conversation, the ruins will provide a constant reminder of the continuing suffering of civilians around the world, and serve as a call to action as we seek to bring about the “more Christ-child-like world” that Provost Howard spoke of.
Get in touch!
We are grateful for your support as we develop this project – you can stay informed and offer any feedback or suggestions via the methods below. We would also welcome any financial contributions, and if you are interested in contributing to this initiative then please get in touch with Christine Doyle, our Director of Marketing and Development on +44 (0)24 7652 1217.
St Michael’s House
SPACE FOR HOPE TO FLOURISH
Since its beginning in the dark days of war, Coventry Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation has reached out to people, communities and countries afflicted by violent conflict.
St. Michael’s House is a new initiative, a dedicated space in a special place, an environment in which to nurture a fuller understanding of the challenges of reconciliation in today’s world.
We aim to inspire a new generation, providing skills-based learning and intellectual encounter alongside theological reflection and spiritual resources for the long-term task of making and building peace in a world of conflict.
St Michael’s House also serves as the home of the worldwide Community of the Cross of Nails, which is made up of some 150 partners in 30 countries.
RECONCILIATION LEARNING PROGRAMME
As a learning space, St Michael’s House aims to establish a network of new relationships among leaders, providing a place for learning and spiritual renewal. We offer a range of courses to cater for people of all ages and educational backgrounds.
We have offered a number of courses along the theme of ‘Managing Difference without a Fight’. If you are interesting in attending a reconciliation course at St. Michael’s House please email us at SMH@coventrycathedral.org.uk . Although no courses are currently planned, it is likely some will be scheduled after our new Canon for Reconciliation, Sarah Hill, starts in September 2014. We would be happy to get back in contact with you when courses are available.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
St Michael’s House provides a place for learning, conversation, prayer and action associated with conflicts memorialised in Coventry’s Cathedral Ruins. As well as the Cathedral community, other churches, groups, business and organisations are also able to use the facility for their own courses, meetings and events. If you are interested in hiring St Michael’s House, please contact the Reconciliation Ministry Team for more information.
Reconciliation Ministry Team Contact Details
The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation
Following the bombing of the mediaeval Cathedral in 1940, Provost Howard had the words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the wall behind the Altar of the ruined building.
These words are used as the response in the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, which is prayed in the new Cathedral every weekday at noon (in the Ruins on Fridays), and is used throughout the world by the Community of the Cross of Nails.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.