Coventry Cathedral in a Day

One of the highlights of my UK Mennonite Church Canada Learning Tour was a day trip to Coventry Cathedral. There have actually been three Coventry cathedrals: the original monastery built in the 12th century, the much larger Gothic church built in the 14th century that was bombed and largely destroyed in 1940, and the present Coventry Cathedral built next to the ruins.

The ruins themselves are impressive, still black from the incendiary bombs that devastated the cathedral and burned the city. // Coventry Cathedral ruins

The old altar has become a memorial to peace with the words “Father Forgive” on the back wall and a litany of reconciliation in front of the altar. // Coventry Cathedral altarThe litany is prayed every weekday at noon, and our group was able to join others who had gathered for prayer in the ruins that day. Afterward, we went inside the present cathedral to The Chapel of Unity for mid-day prayer. // Coventry Cathedral, The Chapel of UnityThe round table and round mosaic patterns on the floor echo the shape of the chapel and convey a sense of unity. Children from Hiroshima made the paper cranes as a sign of peace.

The architecture and artwork of the cathedral are stunning, with contributions from around the world. A bronze maple leaf in the floor of the entrance way acknowledges Canada’s donation. The baptismal font is a boulder from outside of Bethlehem, and behind is the floor to ceiling stained glass designed by English artists John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens. // Coventry Cathedral Bronze Maple Leaf // Coventry Cathedral baptismal fontThe Plumb Line and the City sculpture was a gift from a church in Cincinnati. A crucifix was a gift from the Czech artist Jindrich Severa. // Coventry Cathedral, The Plumb Line and the City // Coventry Cathedral, Crucifix by Czech artist Jindrich SeveraA bell from Germany is inscribed with the words Friede/Peace, there was an exhibit of tapestries by textile artist Jacqui Parkinson, and much, much more . . . . // Coventry Cathedral, Bell from Germany // Coventry Cathedral, Textile by Jacqui Parkinson // Coventry Cathedral, Sculpture by Helen Huntingdon Jennings // Coventry Cathedral, Sculpture by Ginnie Morris (Charlotte, 22, Robson, 46)
Even the seat cushions were works of art . . . . // Coventry Cathedral seat cushionsWhile at the cathedral, it was a great privilege for our group to meet with David and Fran Porter. Canon David Porter is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, whose role embraces both reconciliation within the Anglican communion and how the church can be a reconciling force around the world. Dr. Fran Porter is a research scholar and currently working on a book for the Paternoster After Christendom series.

I so appreciated our conversation on the “deeply pained and deeply complex” work of reconciliation. It’s not about resolving all of the differences that may exist between individuals or nations, but “how do we live with these differences in constructive and peaceful ways?”

I came away with two practical examples of working at reconciliation:
(1) building relationships – e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s  commitment to visit all 38 primates of the Anglican communion;
(2) the importance of “a robust process” that includes “creating spaces where people can be heard.”

Later I saw the Coventry cross made from two charred roof beams that had been found together lying in the shape of a cross among the rubble of the bombed cathedral. A copy is outside in the cathedral ruins, while this original is now kept indoors protected from the weather. // Coventry Cathedral crossThe charred cross is a symbol of reconciliation along with this cross of three medieval nails below, which is a copy of the original that is now embedded in the Coventry Cathedral altar cross. The Coventry cross of nails is also a symbol of the Community of the Cross of Nails which is a network of groups who “work and pray for peace, justice and reconciliation within their own communities and countries.” It reminds me that the work of reconciliation needs to be ongoing in our own lives and all around the world. // Coventry Cathedral cross of nailsAs I end this look back at my visit to Coventry Cathedral, I pray again the 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,
Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father Forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father Forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


For more on writing and other acts of faith,

sign up here for free email updates and receive

a copy of How to Pray When Prayer Seems Impossible

9 thoughts on “Coventry Cathedral in a Day

  1. Thanks for this walk through Coventry Cathedral today, April. How significant the message is for this time of unrest, especially as we contemplate the situation in Syria! God have mercy on us all!

  2. Our group from Celtic Spiritual Pilgrimage spent a day at Coventry Cathedral. I too was moved by the powerful message of reconciliation and peace, with its accompanying commitment to work at it through many different avenues. The simple drawing of the Sarajavo Madonna in one of the chapels moved me deeply.

    1. There is so much wonderful art at the Cathedral, and I was glad we were able to linger there. A Celtic Spiritual Pilgrimage would be special to do sometime too–care to share some of your experience here?

  3. Thanks April for posting this. It is a wonderful memory of what we experienced as a group as we walked through both of the Cathedrals. What a joy it was to do this together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.