Last Wednesday night, About 170 people gathered in a semi-circle at the back of Coventry Cathedral, looking outwards, through the beautifully engraved, glass West Screen, towards the Ruins. The old and the new Cathedrals joined by a canopy that links the destruction of war to the new life of resurrection.
We were there for a Prayer Vigil for Palestine and Israel, in which prayers were to be offered from many faith traditions. We would stand with all who are suffering, and bring their plight before God and one another, each according to their own tradition and belief.
We looked out on the darkness and torrential rain and onto the Global Candle-stand in the centre of our circle. A gift from Kiel, it was designed by students in Europe to mark the victims of the 2005 Seven-Seven bombings in London. There are individual candle holders for each of the victims and four for the perpetrators of the bombing. It is a symbol of the Cathedral’s enduring commitment to sharing together in building community. Kiel was also heavily bombed during the Second World War and has been twinned with Coventry since 1947.
Prayers from different faith traditions were interspersed with profound silences and poignant words and music sung by a small group of the Cathedral Choir. The lighting of candles throughout was deeply moving, the lights multiplying as signs of both our distress and hope for peace with justice for all those in the Holy Land.
The Dean of Coventry Cathedral, The Very Reverend John Witcombe began the Vigil by welcoming everyone and ensuring that everyone felt comfortable to be in this space, able to contribute according to their beliefs and maintain their own integrity.
The Rev Mary Gregory, read the opening prayer:
Prayer of the Mothers
By Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum and Sheikha Ibtisam Mahamid (Translated by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie)
God of Life
Who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds
May it be your will to hear the prayer of mothers.
For you did not create us to kill each other
Nor to live in fear, anger or hatred in your world
But rather you have created us so we can grant permission to one another
to sanctify Your name of Life, your name of Peace in this world.
For these things I weep, my eye, my eye runs down with water
For our children crying at nights,
For parents holding their children with despair and darkness in their hearts
For a gate that is closing and who will open it while day has not yet dawned.
And with my tears and prayers which I pray
And with the tears of all women who deeply feel the pain of these difficult days I raise my hands to you
Please God have mercy on us
Hear our voice that we shall not despair
That we shall see life in each other,
That we shall have mercy for each other,
That we shall have pity on each other,
That we shall hope for each other
And we shall write our lives in the book of Life
For your sake God of Life
Let us choose Life.
For you are Peace, your world is Peace and all that is yours is Peace
And so shall be your will and let us say Amen.
Ann Farr, Pax Christi England and Wales, contributed a prayer of Pope Francis:
God of Peace, hear our prayer.
God of Justice come to our aid.
Grant us peace, teach us peace, guide our steps in the way of peace.
Open our eyes and hearts and give us the courage to say,
‘Never Again War.’
Instil in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love,
You created us and you call us to live as sisters and brothers.
Make us sensitive to the pleas of those who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace and our trepidation into confident trust.
Keep alive within us the flame of hope so that peace will triumph at last and may the words ‘division’, ‘hatred’ and ‘war’ be banished from the heart of every man and woman, so that there will be
Shalom, Peace, Salaam
The Rev Su McClellan ended the Vigil with the Universal Prayer for Peace
World Peace Prayer
Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
Providing a space where those of all faiths and none feel welcome to come together at such a painful time is a significant achievement and thanks go to the staff of the Cathedral for enabling and leading this so creatively and sensitively.