Our Remembrance Sunday service is on the 14th November at 3.00pm.
This month I bought myself a small neck bracelet made of nails. It’s in the shape of a cross and helps me to remember the sacrificial service of so many men and women over years of conflict. It also reminds me of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for a broken world. It’s a much smaller version of the one on display at Coventry Cathedral.
It was on the night of 14th November, 1940, Coventry and its Cathedral endured a one-off, but relentless, bombing campaign. Overnight, the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ offensive destroyed much of central Coventry, destroying the lives of many who were killed and injured. The Cathedral was left in ruins. Only the outer shell of the walls and the tower remained standing.
In the days that followed, two enduring symbols emerged from the rubble. Two charred roof-beams which had fallen in the shape of a cross were bound and placed at the site of the ruined altar, and three medieval roof nails were also formed into a cross, which became the original Cross of Nails, now located at the High Altar in the new Cathedral. Shortly after, the words ‘Father Forgive’ were inscribed on the wall of the ruined chancel, and Provost Dick Howard made a commitment not to seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.
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. Many of these crosses were given, in thanks and in friendship, to contacts all over the world. By 1974 such informal friendships were numerous, and they were all drawn into a brand new Community of the Cross of Nails, which has continued to grow globally to this day.
Coventry Cathedral is one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation, and its work over many decades has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and long-standing areas of conflict. Today the medieval ruins of Coventry Cathedral, freely open to all, continue to remind us of the human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation. They stand today as a memorial to all civilians killed, injured or traumatised by war and violent conflict world-wide.
May you know God’s peace in body, mind and spirit at this time of remembrance.