The Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN) is an international, ecumenical fellowship of individuals and groups who are committed to the ministry of reconciliation. This means reconciliation with oneself, one’s family, the local community, the worldwide community, and God. The goal of the CCN is to bear witness to the power of forgiveness, to build new life out of the world’s brokenness.
By its nature as a community of reconciliation, the CCN is ecumenical in its composition, i.e., inclusive of all Christian traditions and open to dialogue with all the great world religions. The original work of the CCN, the rebuilding of the bombed hospital in Dresden, Germany, linked the Anglican Cathedral of Coventry, England, with the Evangelical Church (Lutheran) in Germany. Later it was the CCN’s association with the Benedictine Roman Catholic Monastery in Ottobeuren, Germany, that led to the use of the Benedictine Rule of Life for lay people as the basis for the Common Discipline. In work related to the ministry of reconciliation in Ireland, the CCN was associated with both Protestants and Catholics. While the dominant constituency of the CCN is found among Episcopalians, members also come from Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United Church of Christ churches.
The CCN was founded by the Very Reverend H.C.N. (Bill) Williams, one-time Provost and Provost Emeritus of Coventry Cathedral. He worked tirelessly to show the world possibilities for peace and reconciliation. His life was a faithful witness to the theology of reconciliation and laid a solid foundation for the work of the CCN.
The CCN promotes a disciplined spiritual life that couples prayer and study with active ministry. Much of its work is carried out by volunteers.
This manual of The Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN) is a response to those who have asked for guidelines and support materials to help them in their reconciliation ministries. It tells how one may join the CCN and outlines the Common Discipline and other practices that have long been encouraged for membership. Because differences exist among individuals and groups, the CCN offers this manual as a catalyst and not as a limitation.
For example, the Common Discipline may be revised according to particular needs and local custom, and should be supported by spiritual direction, retreats, and workshops. Further resources can be found at the back of the manual and at http://www.crossofnails-na.org
The Story of The Community of the Cross of Nails
The work of the CCN is linked to and inspired by the reconciliation between the English and the Germans, which took place after the bombing of Coventry in November, 1940, and the bombing of Dresden, Germany in 1945. However, as Provost Williams writes in Order My Steps in Thy Way, the beginning of the CCN can actually be found in 1326 when medieval craftsmen hammered into the oak beams of the roof of the ancient St. Michael’s Church in Coventry, nails hand-forged by unknown medieval town smiths. In 1940 that ancient church, then a Cathedral, was burned in the anger and hatred of war. “Those 14th century nails were strewed amidst the remains of the Cathedral. As if to make a grave of the mound of destruction, the Cathedral’s stonemason tied together two partly consumed beams into the shape of a cross and placed it among the rubble; a local priest, with the same intuition of death, made a cross of three of the ancient nails. Inevitably, the Christian response to the devastation was the utterance of Jesus from the Cross: ‘Father Forgive.’ The new Cathedral, built next to the ruins, now grows like a limb from the old, and the heart of the Christian religion is proclaimed in the rhythm of ‘Crucifixion-Resurrection through Forgiveness.’ ” Today, the Cross of Nails stands as a world-renowned ecumenical symbol of reconciliation and hope.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is a vital ingredient in the intimate relationships between individuals, an essential in the maintenance of community, and an absolute necessity for the development of world understanding. Most of the work of reconciliation has to do with the creation of dialogue. Therefore, the CCN does not take sides in a conflict. Rather, the CCN sees itself called to enter the chaos, stand in the middle, and create “in-between space.” People may meet one another in this space, find a safe place, and establish common ground so reconciliation can occur. Members of CCN are involved in reconciliation projects in their own communities that bring healing where needed and stand as a sign of Jesus’ ministry to the world, showing that in Christ all things are made new. Members also recognize that they are more likely to breed a spirit of reconciliation among others when they seek to reconcile their own inner conflicts. In other words, they recognize the need to reconcile themselves with themselves before they can offer reconciliation to others. This spiritual framework of inner as well as outer reconciliation includes prayer, study, and spiritual friendship. The desired reconciliation extends from internal personal struggles to the hostility between nations.
The Litany of Reconciliation
All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
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 labors of men and women and lays waste the Earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the homeless and the refugee,
The lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women, and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
(This litany is based on the seven capital sins. It was written in 1959, and since that year it has been recited every Friday at noon before the Altar of Reconciliation in the sanctuary of the old Coventry Cathedral.)
A Prayer for The Community of the Cross of Nails
Almighty God, you have committed to us the ministry of reconciliation of your son, Jesus Christ; give us the confidence in your power to forgive, as your son forgave humankind from the Cross. In his name, bless The Community of the Cross of Nails and enable us to be witnesses for your forgiveness at work where we live. Unite us in a sacred fellowship to heal the hostilities we see, and give us the grace to love another in the name of Jesus Christ and to rejoice in the eternal fellowship of his disciples.