Thin spaces are for me never really expected and the one at Coventry was that. I walked into the shell of Coventry Cathedral that was bombed to ruins during WWII. I turned and looked at the altar and the back wall of the sanctuary with the window frames open to the bright blue sky. Before me above the altar was a charred cross. On the wall behind it, carved in stone were the words “Father Forgive.” Those words were carved into the stone by the Provost Howard a few short weeks after the bombing. He said on national radio that after the war he would work with those who had been enemies “to build a kinder, more Christ-Child-like world.” Today the cathedral’s mission is still one of reconciliation.
In that moment and even now I can feel the anguish of the people, of God, of the world. It was and is as though all of pain of our separation from God and each other is like a shroud around me. It brought me to tears for all the hurt we cause each other.
In 1962 at the dedication of the new Cathedral, Canon Joseph Poole wrote a litany of reconciliation. This litany sits now in the front of the altar of the old cathedral. It is prayed every noon during the week around the world, especially on Fridays. It is applicable today as ever.
It gave the focus for my pilgrimage and other thin places along the way.
The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation
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,
as God in Christ forgave you.