Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Picking through the rubble

Today at noon I stood, as I often do, at the chancel steps and invited visitors to be still for a few moments, to join in a defining act of prayer, something that is part of our DNA here at Coventry Cathedral, our Litany of Reconciliation.
I told those present that the litany emerged as part of our response the morning after a dreadful event that had changed the city of Coventry forever, that it represented a hard, challenging choice to seek peace and reconciliation, even in the face of violence and anguish. I talked about how the medieval nails that had fallen from the roof of the burned cathedral were formed into a cross, and how that cross of nails became the symbol for all the work that has spread out from Coventry around the world, about the Community of the Cross of Nails, and the different ways in which its members seek paths of reconciliation in the face of real challenge, difficulty and even danger. I talked about Provost Howard's decision to have just two words written in the sanctuary of his ruined cathedral
"Father, forgive" - reflecting that he deliberately turned away from any partisan "them" and "us" response which might demonise any one group.
I dared to say that, as we all ponder the impact of last night's events in violence, which left children - children, Lord help us, - dead, wounded, traumatised, we have the same choice before us.
We can opt for anger, heap vitriole on the people of violence, increase the polarisation of society as we build ever higher walls to separate "them" and "us"....OR we can recognise that each of us carries within us the seeds of anger and cruelty that, left unchecked, can lead to such disaster and resolve to live by a better rule.
There IS a choice. Always.
"What we need to tell the world is this....that we are trying, hard as it may be, to banish all thoughts of revenge....We are going to try to make a kinder, simpler, more Christ-child-like sort of world in the days beyond this strife"

With a new urgency I begged those gathered (a larger crowd than usual, as people came in to be quiet, to light candles, to pray and process all that happened last night) to choose, in their turn, to be people of peace. Then we kept silence for a minute, before I prayed the words that came to me early this morning as I read the first accounts of last night's violence and terror
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.                                                                                                                      Be with all who cry out to you today:                                                           the weeping, the wounded, the angry, the terrified,
And, in your mercy, receive all the departed into the light and peace of your kingdom,
For we ask this in Jesus's name.

Then together we prayed the Litany - as we do every day.
Precious, holy words that offer a better way of being.
Words that make space for reflection before over-hasty reactions escalate violence.
Words that are a gift in time of trouble

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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