Reflections on joining the Coventry Cathedral Community of the Cross of Nails and the recent Pilgrimage

Reconciliation…….Well, professionally and non-professionally, I periodically facilitate small group work, including the sort of work that requires bringing disparate views together at times. There are many initiatives across the globe that promote reconciliation or provide moderation/mediation/arbitration services. They had caught my eye in the context of my facilitation activity, and I had done some research on some of them.

Then David Stone, Sub-Dean at Coventry Cathedral, joined my church, Holy Trinity Brussels, on Sunday morning 2nd February 2020. He preached about reconciliation and talked through the perseverant work of Coventry Cathedral to bring about a more peaceful world. It became obvious to us in the congregation that the work of Coventry Cathedral in this area is no small achievement. Having taken the brunt of a Luftwaffe bombing campaign in 1940, the Cathedral’s ruins left behind are stark enough even today to suggest the hell-hole that the place must have seemed immediately after the event. But the Cathedral was brave and clear-sighted enough to set about a re-build almost straight away – a physical rebuild of the building and a spiritual rebuild – out of the hell-hole – based on forgiveness. With the spiritual rebuild came the formation of the Community of the Cross of Nails and the cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation.

David Stone was with us at Holy Trinity Brussels that morning to seal our own membership of the Community as a church. Holy Trinity is a “European” church in that we sit in the same city as the European Institutions. We are also an international church, in that we attract members from all corners of the world. Brussels also hosts NATO and many embassies representing countries worldwide. So Holy Trinity is challenged by, but also delights in, diversity.

I was quite taken with what David had to say and went to quiz him afterwards. That was subsequently followed up with a connection to Alice Farnhill at the CCN, and then quite a long discussion with John Witcombe, Coventry Cathedral’s Dean.

So I found myself attending the CCN’s Pilgrimage last month, along with one of the clergy at Holy Trinity, Jean-Bosco Turahirwa. Jean-Bosco is Holy Trinity’s official representative for the CCN. He has a background in conflict management, mediation and reconciliation. He has worked for several years for the Brussels Mennonite Centre at national and international level.

The first point to note about the Pilgrimage was that it was on-line – inevitable in the current COVID-restricted circumstances. This was simultaneously a restriction and a liberation. A restriction because of the lack of in-person contact (no meals together, etc). But a liberation in that we were able to welcome into our midst participants from different parts of the world who would not have been able to contribute otherwise.

The second point to note was the insights all of us undoubtedly absorbed at different points during our three afternoons together. To give an example for me, I was intrigued at how one’s choice of language can simultaneously include and exclude others. If I talk about Black Lives Matter then I clearly draw attention to the perceived needs of a particular population group. But then don’t “All Lives Matter”? But if I say that, then I take away attention from where the needs possibly really are…….

The third point that struck me was the rapport between the Cathedral staff – even on-line. Well done CCN for practising what you preach, and thank you for setting the tone for the rest of us pilgrims!

So where do I go from here? As a Christian believer of many years, one of my deepest joys (although not always one that comes to the fore first!) is to serve. My prayer is that this experience of CCN so far would be another step along that path of service, as I await what God would have me do in the area of reconciliation. Thank you Lord, your call……..

Sue Bird, Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels

NB. this article does not necessarily represent the views of Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels.

CCN Thought for the Week for 2nd November – from a recent online pilgrim from Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels
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