Today many of us would have been gathering for our Spring Dean’s Breakfast. I have greatly valued these opportunities to gather senior leaders from across the city to share our vision for what it means in practice to be a City of Peace and Reconciliation. We have heard from inspiring local leaders and had significant conversations, holding fast to this vital vision of a city which offers something completely unique in the country.
Sadly, we are not able to meet in person today because of the lockdown. I know that you will be facing many challenges. You must be concerned about your business, your customers, your employees and the effects on the wider community. Please be assured of our thoughts and prayers at this time – the live streaming of daily services can be found online on our Facebook site and visitors to our website can now light a candle and leave a special message.
I wanted to take the opportunity to encourage you with a message of hope that springs from our shared history. As some of you will have seen from the ‘signature’ line I have been using recently in emails, I have been really inspired by the Reconciliation statue in the ruins of the old Cathedral. It’s especially powerful because it is an image of joyful reunion which sits in the context – the Ruins – of the real memory of loss and pain. Yet it is an image of hope. I have been captivated recently by the idea of people coming to gather, when allowed, in front of the statue and to picture themselves falling into each other’s arms just like the young people in the image.
Originally titled ‘Reunion’, the statue by Josefina de Vasconcellos depicts the reuniting of two people who had been separated by war – specifically, the war in Europe. Today, the image speaks to new generations of what it means to lean into one another in mutual embrace, and we use it to talk about making reconciliation real, especially with our schools visitors.
One of the blessings of these days has been the growth of relationship and mutual care across generational and other historic divisions. Neighbours have started talking to each other – some as a result of sharing in the weekly applause. There have been examples of peace and reconciliation in homes and streets (although we know that’s not universal.) We often speak of the need for a ‘re-imagined’ future in our reconciliation work – but without something to force us to think differently, it can be hard to do. This present time makes us look at ourselves, our neighbours, our world differently – it offers an opportunity to re-imagine how we shall be as we look forward to coming out of lockdown. We have a chance from Coventry to lead not just the region, but the whole country, just as we did in the days after the second world war, in symbolising a recovery and rebuilding of a new future – so let’s be thinking ahead to what we can learn and take forward from the present times, and look forward to lots of embracing and smiles in front of the statue in the Ruins.
We will come through this a wiser and a stronger people, more aware of the priorities which bind us together, sharing and drawing on whatever faith or other traditions sustain us, and more able to give generous thanks for all we have to share. If you would value a conversation with me or anyone from the cathedral team, please don’t hesitate to be in touch – or if you would like a personal message of encouragement to share with your team, let me know.
In the words of Her Majesty the Queen. “We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again”. In the Cathedral, we were particularly struck by this positive message of looking forward and it clearly complements our own ministry as a beacon of hope and a landmark for reconciliation for the world.
We are your Cathedral. We will get through this together, although by being apart.
With my prayers and good wishes,