Community of the cross of nails
by Bathsheba Wells Dion
It is not every day that you begin the morning sitting at prayer next to the Bishop of Bujumbura. But then Coventry Cathedral is not an everyday sort of place.
If you ever visit Coventry Cathedral, I invite you to take a moment to stand at the top of the steps of the Old Cathedral and look towards the New. You will be just outside the protective covering that extends from the New Cathedral, exposed to whatever sun, rain or wind there happens to be that day. At first you will see the angels and saints in the West Screen window, these haunting, skeletal figures that mark the entrance to the building. You might see the mirror image of the ruins, and yourself reflected back at you. But if you look past these reflections, right at the very end of the Cathedral you will see the giant tapestry of Christ enthroned. Every step from the ruins to the tapestry takes you closer to this image.
Today, people from around the globe will gather in Coventry. They come from different countries, different contexts, and experience different conflicts, but one thing that draws them all together is a resonance with the Cathedral’s history of rebuilding and reconciliation. They, too, will go through this journey from ruins to reconstruction, from vulnerability to community, from conflict to hope. This is the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN), an international network of peacebuilding churches, charities and centres.
Some of these are large and well-established organisations, such as HOPE Africa – they lead the South African CCN, and recent activities include supporting survivors of human trafficking, and helping them to reintegrate into society.
Others come from closer to home, with more localised but equally as valuable ambitions. One of these is the Mothers’ Union of Coventry and Warwickshire. They facilitate difficult conversations between parents and children, as well as providing holidays for families undergoing periods of emotional and financial stress.
Still others have yet to fully join the CCN, for example the St Johannis-kirchgemeinde Plauen. Like Coventry, they were heavily damaged during the bombing of WWII. Also like Coventry, they resolved to break out of this cycle of destruction and conflict, and engaged the local community in a range of peace and reconciliation activities. Attending the CCN International Gathering is part of their pilgrimage which will culminate in them joining the Community in April 2020.
This Saturday, 29th September, ten of the CCN partners (including these three) will tell their stories in an event called St Michael’s Marketplace. Other presenters include the India Peace Centre, Virginia Theological Seminary, and Flodden Peace Garden. The message is that no matter how large or small, how old or new these centres may be, they all have valuable experiences to share and wisdom to impart.
So however far you have come on your journey – both geographically and spiritually – and however far you have yet to go, there is always a place for you at Coventry Cathedral.
All participants on the Journey of Hope training programme will have the opportunity to share in the narrative of Coventry Cathedral during the training residential hosted at St Michael’s House in January 2019.