This will reach you on the eve of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual observance always begins on January 18, the Confession of St. Peter, and continues until January 25, the Conversion of St. Paul.
Once we thought Christian unity meant all Christians should be organized into one big church. Today’s approach is summed up in a Latin phrase, “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas” commonly translated as "unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things." The phrase has often been attributed to 4th century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo, but has also been attributed to 17th century Croatian Bishop Marco Antonio de Dominis and English author and Puritan Richard Baxter of the same era. Regardless of who said it, it is worthy of contemplation as we pray and work for Christian unity.
I wish other groups of Christians could know the kind of unity that exists in The Cathedral Church of St. Andrew - an inviting, unity of heart, mind, and purpose that is in contrast to the day-to-day conflicts that plague us. It is not a unity based on agreement in everything, but is similar to what St. Paul described in a message he sent to the Ephesians, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:1-6)
On November 14, 1940, much of the City of Coventry, England was reduced to rubble by German bombs. The Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels, at the heart of the city, burned with it. In the terrible aftermath that followed, Provost Howard wrote the words ‘Father forgive’ on the smoke-blackened wall of the sanctuary. Two of the charred beams that had fallen in the shape of a cross were set on the altar and three of the medieval nails were bound into the shape of a cross. The people of Coventry found the grace to overcome the anger they felt toward their enemies who destroyed their Cathedral and almost destroyed their entire city.
After the war, they decided to share that grace with others. Crosses of Nails were presented to Kiel, Dresden, and Berlin, cities shattered by Allied bombing. Out of those ashes grew a trust and partnership between Coventry and the German cities. The Community of the Cross of Nails came into being. There are now 160 Cross of Nails Centres around the world, all emanating from this early, courageous vision, and all working for peace and reconciliation within their own communities and countries. The Cross of Nails has become a powerful and inspirational symbol of reconciliation and peace. It should come as no surprise that our own St. Andrew’s Cathedral is listed among the Friends of the Community of the Cross of Nails.
The original Cross of Nails is now incorporated in the cross on the Coventry Cathedral High Altar. The twisted arms of the High Altar cross symbolize the charred timbers from the roof of the original Cathedral, which were made into a cross to replace the original High Altar cross. The nails and twisted arms also symbolize Christ's suffering on the original Cross.
As a Friend, St. Andrew's also has a Cross of Nails. It is above the Chapel Altar. Give thanks to God for our unity and pray that we will be a light to others who seek oneness in Christ. Every shining example of a community of Christians living into the oneness for which our Savior prayed is part of the answer to his prayer "that they all might be one" and all prayers for unity among all God's children.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral