By The Rev. Canon Dr. William J. Danaher Jr. | Rector

This coming weekend, we welcome the Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral in England. Dean Witcombe’s Cathedral is world-renowned for its work in Reconciliation, a ministry that it took on in 1940, during WWII. After the medieval Cathedral building was destroyed during a devastating bombing by the German Luftwaffe, the Dean of the Cathedral at the time, Richard Howard, instructed stonemasons to carve on the wall behind the altar the following words: “Father Forgive.”

This provided a visible way for Dean Howard to set a new vision for Coventry, that it would be a place for dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace, always seeking an end to violent conflict. This new vision was summarized in the following litany:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

In the 1960s, as he composed his Sacred Concerts, Duke Ellington took this litany and set it to music. This past year, we asked Billy Mark, a performance artist, to explore what this litany might look like today. This is what he wrote, and performed, at our recent Sacred Concert last March:

 

For every time we stumble through your goodness blind to your help,

Father, forgive.

For the pain in this world and any way in which we have played a part,

Father, forgive.

For your beloved city and its brokenness,

Father, forgive.

For when, in your presence, we have used your words to harm,

Father, forgive.

For taking your mercy lightly,

Father, forgive.

For the hurt we hold on to,

Father, forgive.

Forgive us, touch the Spirit of this city, draw us into your body, and heal us as one,

Father, forgive.

 

Dean Witcombe’s visit, then, catches us in mid-prayer and in a process of reconciliation inspired in part of Coventry’s witness and, in whole, by God in Christ. May his visit with us move us one step further along the way as we follow our Resurrected Lord.

 

The Communicant

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