Vicar's letter

Dear Friends,

“We’re going to try to make a kinder, simpler, a more Christ-like sort of world in the days beyond this strike.”

These are the words of the Provost Richard Howard, spoken on Christmas Day 1940 whilst he stood within the charred remains of Coventry Cathedral.

It would have been very easy in the days and weeks that followed, as people looked upon a smoking heap of ruins where the majority of the Cathedral once stood, for feelings of revenge, anger and bitterness to dominate and therefore shape Coventry’s response. Yet Richard Howard was determined that this wouldn’t happen. Even before he spoke the words above, he had inscribed the words, ‘Father Forgive’ in what remained of the sanctuary wall, where the Cathedral stone mason had recovered two of the charred medieval roof timbers which had fallen in the shape of a cross. These were bound together and placed at the rubble altar, along with the original Cross of Nails – formed from three medieval roof nails and which now stands at the High Altar of the new Coventry Cathedral. The 25th May this year will mark 60 years since the consecration of this new Cathedral.

Coventry Cathedral then, standing as it does with the remains of the old Cathedral, has since the events of 1940, become known for its ministry of peace and reconciliation around the world. The Cross of Nails became a symbol of this - with Richard Howard presenting one to a church in Germany in 1947. Hundreds have been presented since, with recipients creating a ‘Community of the Cross of Nails’ in 1974 – to this day they share a commitment to peace, justice and reconciliation.

Maybe then, the approaching 60th anniversary of the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral and its focus on peace and reconciliation, will give us all time to pause and reflect on how the world needs to be called to this more than ever. Just as the bombed remains of the original Cathedral in Coventry from 1940 remind us of the destruction and futility of war, so does the smoking rubble of homes, shops, places of worship, and factories in Ukraine in 2022.

Yet the story of Coventry also plays out what we are reminded of in this Easter season: the love and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and that from destruction comes resurrection. Death and destruction was not the final word for Coventry, and it will not be for Ukraine. For many around the world continue to pray for peace, for reconciliation – the very things that Christ called us to and showed in his life, death and resurrection. Many people of faith and none, continue to show love to those who have suffered in Ukraine by offering homes or space within homes – a love and a shared humanity which knows no borders. In all of this and in so much more is where we see resurrection and the ‘Christ-like’ response to the horrors of this war – all whilst praying for ourselves and others, as the people of Coventry did in 1940, ‘Father Forgive.’

With every blessing,