Sarah Hills, the Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, gave some great teaching when we were at the Cross of Nails conference in Romania.
Reconciliation, she said, is a journey, not just a destination. What happens en route is crucial: she christened it Walk Theology. There may be danger, confusion, anger, fear, lament – all a valuable part of the whole process.
As an illustration, she described a peace walk she had done this year in Iraq. She and the Coventry team had met up with Kurds, Iraqis, Yazidis, refugees and others to walk in a bombed-out area near Mosul. The peace walk had started on the previous Palm Sunday and lasted a week. People had been invited to take an olive branch with them as a symbol of peace.
Mosul is ancient Nineveh, which features in the Old Testament as a power which brutalised others. She felt it was particularly appropriate.
They walked to a desecrated church in a destroyed village where, with the priest, they placed a cross of nails on what was left of the altar in the blackened ruins: an illustration which resonated with all those from Coventry. That was how the Cross of Nails movement had begun: with the bombing of the old cathedral in the second world war, and the first cross, made out of medieval roof nails, placed on the altar in the ruins which were still smoking.
Two days later, on Easter Day, they all went back to the church for an Easter service. The villagers had not been idle. They had cleaned up as best they could. They had found a temporary altar and put on it a clean cloth and fresh flowers. They all came to the service, along with Peshmerga soldiers, and children in white, for their first Holy Communion for a very long time.
The Dean of Coventry Cathedral after the bombing had spoken of his desire to build, after the war, a ‘better, kinder world.’ The faith and hope of those people in Iraq surely embodied just that.
What an amazing, joyful Easter celebration that must have been, and how appropriate – life out of death.
(image from https://sojo.net/articles/photo-essay-palm-sunday-iraqi-christians-march-80-miles-peace)