When I started my internship for the CCN and Coventry Cathedral last September, I was still able to travel within the country and therefore to commute from London, my home in England, to Coventry for two days a week by train. Unfortunately, this changed quite quickly due to the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections worldwide, as late summer and its warm weather left us for a more uncomfortable autumn and winter. Hence since November, I have continued to support the work for the CCN remotely, as so many others had to work from home as well.
Every Wednesday, I look very much forward to my weekly check-in with Alice, my supervisor in Coventry and coordinator of the CCN, which I now only get to see via Zoom. Through our chats, I feel more connected to the Cathedral and the work there, even from a distance. She always makes sure that I am doing well during these times, gives me the latest update about how things are proceeding at the Cathedral and for the team and provides me with tasks to help her with. Lately, I have been able to take part in several meetings, like the Coventry pilgrimage – online this year, yet still very enriching and connecting – or staff- and board meetings. This way, I can get an impression of what working for and with the lovely people in the CCN means. Although I have only met most people related to this work via Zoom, I still get the feelings of familiarity and joy whenever I recognize a friendly face on my screen. An idea of how widely spread the network is I did get by working through the CCN’s partners and friends lists and their websites to update our member lists. I was amazed by the diversity in countries, languages, forms of communities and denominations that all come together in the idea of reconciliation and peacemaking, each in its individual way.
For me, another important part of my understanding and learning about reconciliation, the CCN and Coventry’s story has been the reading I have done about it so far. Oliver Schuegraf’s book “Reconciliation” was the perfect starting point for me, connecting Coventry’s past with the CCN’s work today and our faith, beliefs and values as sources of hope and motivation to take action and part in this work. As I started researching for a short film about one of the newer CCN partners, a church in Demmin in Germany, I was handed the book “Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself: The Mass Suicide of Ordinary Germans in 1945” by Florian Huber. It sounds as shocking as it is, focussed on the city’s cruel past in post-war times, when so many Germans saw no other way out of their misery than committing suicide. While reading about Demmin’s background story, I once again understood the importance of the CCN’s aims – to heal the wounds of history, to live with difference and to build a culture of peace. I am currently reading another book, not directly linked to Coventry as a place, but to its meaning for sure, “Reconcile” by John Paul Lederach, who tells incredible stories of his experiences working in international reconciliation and connecting it with the biblical message to Christians. I have not come far with my reading yet, but it is as captivating as it is inspiring.
While I am working remotely and England is still under the current lockdown restrictions, most of my spare time is spent in the house I live in, Lioba House. There, I am truly blessed with my five housemates, girls that are either volunteering like me or completing their master studies in London. Now that we all are staying at home, I feel once more that we are each other’s biggest support. We cook and eat together, share each other’s company on daily walks around the neighbourhood and brighten up the everyday life with game and film nights. Everyone is experiencing the same situation in such different ways. To talk about how we are feeling, to share concerns as well as hopes has a huge uplifting impact on our state of mind. However, the time we live in turns out to be quite a challenge. The connection to and the support from my home and family have made the past months a bit easier. Yet I feel so much gratitude for the opportunities and chances I was blessed with so far. To meet the wonderful people from Coventry, London, and many other places, to get to know the work of such an impressive global network on the one hand and with a team that is so heartwarmingly caring on the other – these things will be captured for a lifetime and I would not want to miss any of it.
Since writing this, Fine has returned home to Germany for several weeks and is working for us and her other intern project remotely from there, just as well as she was from London. We still hope that we get her back before too long, however!