19 February 2016

Praying the ‘Litany of Reconciliation’
from Coventry Cathedral on Friday

‘Father Forgive’ … the Cross of Nails and the Litany of Reconciliation in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We often pray the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer (see pp 175-178) as our Friday morning office in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. However, this morning our prayers incorporate the Litany of Reconciliation from the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry Cathedral.

The Ministry of Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral has shaped many of the priorities of Archbishop Justin Welby when he was a canon in Coventry.

For over 50 years, Coventry Cathedral has been a dynamic centre of worship and mission, a place of pilgrimage, liturgical creativity, and healing; a focus for reconciliation locally, nationally and internationally; for education and the arts; a venue for national services and television and radio broadcasts; and a focal point for the City, the region, and even for the world.

Following the bombing of Coventry’s mediaeval cathedral in 1940, the Provost, the Very Revd Richard Howard, had the words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the wall behind the charred cross and the Altar of the ruined building.

He explained that he had not used the phrase “Father forgive Them” … because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23).

These words moved generations of people and are prayed in the Litany of Reconciliation every Friday at noon outside in the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral in Coventry and in many other places around the world by the Community of the Cross of Nails.

The Litany of Reconciliation, based on the seven cardinal sins, was written in 1958 by Canon Joseph Poole, the first Precentor of the new, post-war cathedral in Coventry.

This Litany is a universal and timeless confession of humanity’s failings, but it evokes us to approach these sins and weaknesses in the forgiveness of God’s love.

The Litany of Reconciliation (Coventry Cathedral):

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 dishonours 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.

The Readings:

Psalm 25; Genesis 41: 1-24; .I Corinthians 4: 1-7

I Corinthians 4: 1-7

1 Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

6 I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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