The week before commemorating the bombing of Coventry, our first forms got to know its story. Through the Cross of Nails ICONS network our school is closely bound up with Coventry, and we looked at how difficult reconciliation is, in one particular lesson.
We decided to build Coventry Cathedral with pieces of wood, like Jenga. I talked with the pupils about the night of November 14th, 1940 – the night when the German airforce bombed the factories producing aircraft engines to sabotage the British air defence. 400 flats were destroyed and 500 people died in this night. The medieval St. Michael`s Cathedral was destroyed, too.
Richard Howard wrote the words “Father forgive” onto the walls of the ruins and he asked for reconciliation. That was courageous as well as risky.
When our work was done we admired our beautiful Cathedral. Therefore we didn`t realize that one of the boys had hung on to some of the pieces of wood. Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, he started “bombing” our Cathedral. Only the tower was left.
The shock among the other children was deep. They wanted me to send this boy out of the classroom. They didn`t want to have him among them anymore. So I started telling them about Coventry. We talked about truth, fairness, peace and so on. Our Cathedral was small, and of course much less important than the one in Coventry, but our grief was really deep.
The pupils were shocked about their classmate and what he had done. His behaviour had really been shabby and perfidious. But now it was for us to forgive him. We talked about the meaning of “Father forgive”. Nobody is perfect and faultless. We have to understand that God forgives us because of his Grace, which seems to be endless.
We said, “If God forgives us all, then we should also do it.” The pupils were willing to do so but they wanted to hear an apology. Their classmate should see his deed and ask the others to forgive him. This obviously was the most difficult thing for him to do, and it took him quite a while before he was able to. But the words finally brought healing, and we started rebuilding our Cathedral. The most interesting thing for me to see was that the pupils used the words “peace” and “justice” for building the roof.
In this lesson we all – teachers and pupils – learned something: the story of Coventry and the Cross of Nails brought reconciliation into our class!!!!