IN 2019 I took part in the Journey of Hope, a six-month training programme in peace-building and reconciliation run by Reconcilers Together, a network of Christian peace-making centres across the UK and Ireland.
Our first stop in January 2019 was Coventry Cathedral, whose international ministry of reconciliation began when the cathedral burned down following the bombing of the city in November 1940.
The Provost of the Cathedral, Richard Howard, vowed that it would rise again, as a symbol of hope and forgiveness. A priest made a cross from three fifteenth-century nails from the cathedral’s oak beams. The Cross of Nails was set upon a stone altar created from the rubble, and the words ‘Father Forgive’ were inscribed on the surviving stonework of the sanctuary.
The inscription deliberately did not say ‘Father forgive them’, to recognise that we all fall short and contribute to the culture of conflict. It inspired the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, now prayed daily in the new Coventry Cathedral, and weekly in the Cathedral ruins. It is also shared by more than 200 other churches and communities worldwide through the Community of the Cross of Nails, which grew out of informal relationships between Coventry and three bombed German cities after World War II.
On our Journey of Hope in Coventry, as I walked into the old cathedral, I immediately saw the similarity to our Bombed Out Church in Liverpool, the church after which the parish where the first Open Table community began is named. It was destroyed by bombing on 6th May 1941.
On my return, I began the conversation with the parish team about how we might mark the 80th anniversary of the Liverpool Blitz on May 6th 2021, and how our parish might join the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN). This is where Louis our curate takes up the story:
My name is Revd Dr Louis Johnson, and I’m the Assistant Curate of the Team Parish of St Luke In The City, Liverpool.
The Team Parish of St Luke in the City is a creative, progressive, inclusive Anglican community in the heart of Liverpool, which seeks to serve diverse local, national and international communities by working with partner organisations such as Micah Liverpool Foodbank, The Red Cross, Refugee Women Connect, Faiths4Change, Open Table, and HeartEdge, an offshoot of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. We seek to live out our shared unity in God and community with one another, reflecting a commitment to diversity and inclusion, a parish and people ‘living life in full colour from the still centre of God’.
Reconciliation is an important aspect of this ministry, helping build a culture of peace in our city by offering welcome to all. As well as involvement in inner-city and student chaplaincy, we work with and alongside the growing asylum seeker and refugee communities in Liverpool, and the parish is looking to extend this work further by reaching out to other marginalised communities in our city, such as the Roma community, helping to build positive relationships between groups that can sometimes experience tension due to a lack of knowledge, contact and understanding.
Joining the Community of the Cross of Nails will enable the St Luke in the City team and parish to link up our community-building ministry with other CCN churches and organisations regionally, nationally, and internationally, allowing for mutual learning and collaboration opportunities.
Like Coventry, Liverpool was extremely badly damaged during WWII, and one of the lasting physical remnants of this is the shell of St Luke in the City, which now stands both as a reminder of the destruction of war, and as a monument to peace. Hit by an incendiary device during Liverpool’s ‘May Blitz’ in 1941, Thursday 6th May 2021 marks exactly 80 years since the church building was destroyed.
The parish team, along with representatives from the parish, the civic community, Coventry Cathedral, and the CCN, will hold an act of worship in the ruins to mark the event, during which we will receive our Cross of Nails.