The Coventry Cross of Nails Community
Twice so far on this journey I have stumbled across the Cross of Nails Community. First in the Kreuzkirche (Cross Church) in Dresden, and then as part of the Kirchentag worship at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Here is the story of the Coventry Cross of Nails Community and the ecumenical reconciliation community in German that is a part of it. With some minor editions the information comes from the Coventry web site and the Kreuzkirche in Dresden. I’ve included the Litany of Reconciliation at the end of these notes. In the wake of the second terrorist attack in England earlier this week it all seems even more relevant to me.
(From the Coventry web site) Following the destruction of Coventry Cathedral during a German air raid in 1940, Provost Dick Howard made a commitment not to seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible. During the BBC radio broadcast from the Cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 he declared that when the war was over we should work with those who had been enemies ‘to build a kinder, more Christ-like world.’
The words “Father Forgive” were inscribed on the wall of the ruined chancel and two charred beams which had fallen in the shape of a cross were bound and placed on an altar of rubble. Three medieval nails were formed into a cross, and the Cross of Nails quickly became a potent sign of friendship and hope in the post war years, especially in new relationships with Germany and the developing links between Coventry and the cities of Kiel, Dresden and Berlin.
The Community of the Cross of Nails has its origins in this courageous vision, and today nearly 200 Partners form part of this Community as they work and pray for peace, justice and reconciliation within their own communities and countries. Their ministry may focus on politics, race, religion, economics, gender or sexual orientation; it may address war and violent conflict, post conflict restoration or healing; it can have broad and far-reaching, national or regional consequences, or it can make a significant difference to local communities and individual people’s lives.
CCN Partners can be churches, reconciliation centres, prisons or peacebuilding NGOs: any body of people who have a heart and a need to pursue reconciliation in their own lives and the lives of others. Partners are encouraged to link up within countries and regions and to support each other – both practically and prayerfully.
(From the Kreuzkirche materials) The Cross of Nails challenges us Germans to continuously come to terms with our past and with the tensions of the present in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. In 1991 the German section of the Community of the Cross of Nails was founded as an ecumenical registered society bringing together already established Cross of Nails centers and individuals.
In the “spirit of Coventry” we are committed to work for the following aims:
We aim to pray and to work in the spirit of reconciliation according to our common discipline
We uphold the commandment “love your enemies” in concrete situations
We promote dialogue between young and old, between locals and strangers
We seek ways to resolve conflicts without violence
We face German history and work within the communion of nations to grow understanding for each other
We endeavor in particular to encourage the cooperation of young people all over Europe and support understanding of each other under the sign of the Cross of Nails.
The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation
The Litany was written in 1958 and focuses on the seven deadly sins. It reminds that when we pray about the problems of the world around us, we need to begin by acknowledging the roots of those problems in our own hearts. The Litany is prayed at noon each weekday in Coventry Cathedral. On Fridays, we pray the Litany in the ruins of the old Cathedral and are joined in prayer at that time by many of our partners around the world.
THE COVENTRY LITANY OF RECONCILIATION
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
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