Open/Close Menu Anglican church of Good Shepherd-Protea, Kirstenbosch, Newlands and Bishopscourt, Cape Town, a chapelry of St Saviours, Claremont, at the centre of reconciliation and restitution in the post-apartheid era in South Africa


The Revd Jo Tyers, Petrina Pakoe, Jenny Wilson, Thea Ramsay and I attended The Community of the Cross of Nails International Gathering at Coventry from 26th to 30th September 2012, one of the highlights of last year.

The ruins of the medieval cathedral with the words ‘FATHER FORGIVE’ on the wall behind the altar stand next to the huge iconic New Cathedral built after the war, as modern and relevant today as it was when designed by Sir Basil Spence in the fifties. The Cathedral houses some fine art and craft, much pertaining to peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.

On entering the precinct, the bronze of St Michael slaying the devil, on the outside wall, is a powerful symbol of the triumph of good over evil.On the right, entering through the glass back wall, etched with angels and saints, which links the ruin and the new Cathedral, is Piper’s great Baptistry Window representing The Holy Spirit breaking into the world in hope. This casts shards of coloured light over the font, a boulder from a hillside near Bethlehem.

Opposite the window to the left is the Chapel of Unity, with its floor mosaics of the five continents, where ecumenical services are held. At the north end of the Cathedral, the beautiful Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, seen through an iron crown of thorns was a place where many of us sat awhile to pray and find peace.

The Czech Cross sent to Coventry and carved by Jindrich Severa in 1968 just before the Russian Communist troops entered Czechoslovakia with the message ‘Pray for the Czechoslovak people’, was a poignant reminder of past history, as was the large cross on the back stairs, fashioned by the Provost during the Second World War from two charred beams from the bombed ruin, as a future symbol of reconciliation.

Sutherland’s great tapestry of Christ covers the wall behind the High Altar on which the Cross of Nails stands. During our introductory supper in the nave, and the final concert, just the face of Christ on the tapestry was illuminated, to great effect. Looking back from the altar, the side windows are revealed, adding a burst of colour and light to the whole enormous space.

The Programme was brilliantly conceived, varied and interesting. Staying at the Britannia Hotel next to the Cathedral, our days included Morning Prayer and Bible Study led on consecutive days by Canon Dr Richard Cooke, the Rt Revd John Stroyan and Emma Griffiths who is leading the International Cross of Nails Schools programme. Small group discussions followed.

Reflecting on the CCN Mission, there were excellent talks on ‘Healing the Wounds’ by Rev Dr Oliver Schuegraf and Annemarie Franke, ‘Living with Difference’ by Petrina Pakoe and Erin Newton and ‘Building Peace’ by the Very Rev Mark Pendleton and Jost Hasselhorn. Delegates shared their national stories with particular reference to their own Centres and Jenny was invited to tell the story of the forced removal of many of our congregation during the Apartheid years. Canon David Porter ended two of the days with thought provoking keynote addresses on ‘Celebrating Diversity’ and ‘Building Peace.’

Canon David also led a deeply meaningful pilgrimage from Holy Trinity Church through The Hallowing Places in the Cathedral ruins, where plaques represent the ancient Craftsmens’ Guild Chapels, and a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire where evidence of the ongoing loss of life due to terrorism, conflict and war was in terrible contrast to the peace and beauty of the place.

There were 80 international representatives. Those who spoke had, without exception, put much thought and work into their presentations and helped to make the experience unforgettable. The shared national stories were very interesting and some were moving and deeply inspiring. Dr Kiran Martin spoke about her work in 1988 founding the Asha Society to improve the lives of children she was treating for cholera in the Delhi slums. Asha now serves over 400 000 people in the slums and this has led to the empowerment of women and better basic living conditions for slum dwellers.

The gathering was very inclusive and all our apportioned tasks were competently backed up by Canon David and the cathedral interns who went out of their way to help us make the most of our experience. We met many old friends among those present, and being in the same groups for Bible Study and the Discussion Forums helped us to get to know each other better and truly ‘grow together in hope!’

The Gathering ended with dinner in the beautiful 14th century St Mary’s Guildhall, a wonderful concert in the cathedral and Sunday morning Eucharist celebrating the Patronal Festival.What a privilege to have been there and thank you to all involved for the incredible experience afforded us.

Deirdre de Pomeroy-Legg

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