Photo Credit: Mothers’ union.
The work of the Mothers’ Union in reconciliation and peace-building has been recognised by the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN). The CCN is part of the work of Coventry Cathedral’s international reconciliation ministry team. Membership of the Community is given to churches, peace-building centres and educational and training organisations in recognition of their reconciliation work. The Community, which has more than 200 members, is inspired by Coventry’s story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal.
Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a German bombing raid on 14 November 1940, in an attack that lasted more than 10 hours and left more than two thirds of the city’s buildings destroyed or damaged. In the days that followed, two enduring symbols emerged from the rubble: two charred roof-beams which had fallen in the shape of a cross were bound and placed at the site of the ruined altar, and three medieval roof nails were also formed into a cross, which became the original Cross of Nails.
That original Cross of Nails is located at the High Altar in the new Cathedral; and has been used as the symbol of the cathedral’s international reconciliation work. Archbishop Justin Welby, who worked in Coventry Cathedral’s reconciliation ministry before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, wears a pectoral cross in the shape of the cross of nails. And replicas of the original cross are presented to organisations when they are made members of the Community.
Yesterday (Monday), during “a poignant service” in the chapel at the Mothers’ Union’s international headquarters – Mary Sumner House in Westminster, London – the 143-year-old Anglican mission agency was admitted as a partner to The Community of the Cross of Nails. Canon Sarah Hills, who oversees Coventry’s reconciliation ministry, presented a replica Cross of Nails to MU Worldwide President, Lynne Tembey.
“It is a great honour to receive the Cross of Nails and to be partners in a worldwide network of peace builders,” Tembey said. “Being a part of the Community of the Cross of Nails affirms who we are at our core – a movement of men and women contributing to peace and reconciliation at all levels, from the fellowship of friendship over a cup of tea to conflict zones, Mothers’ Union members embody the spirit of what the Cross of Nails is all about.”
After the cross was formally received, it was passed around congregation before being placed on the chapel’s altar, where it now stands. The cross is made up of three large nails and at its base is written “Father Forgive” – the words written on the wall of the remains of the chancel by Provost Dick Howard in 1940.
The Mothers’ Union is active around the world and is particularly engaged in peace and reconciliation work in South Sudan and Uganda. “Your members are on the frontline of peace-making”, Canon Sarah said during the service. “The work you do is about peace. It is your work and we thank you.”