The eighteenth day of Lent
Tuesday after 3 Lent
Behind the altar, in the ruins of the old Cathedral in Coventry, England, are inscribed the words, "Father Forgive." The large cross is made from charred beams of the roof which fell during the bombing of the city of Coventry in November 1940. On the Altar is the cross of nails formed from the 14th century roof nails. The greater symbolism of this place has to do with the resolution of enmity between nations in the wake of a terrible war. But when the cathedral leadership set about to rebuild the cathedral, there was a realization that reconciliation is first of all a very personal thing, a matter of one-on-one relationships, and not just relationships that have have been strained by conflict, but relationships which have failed out of indifference, neglect, or just plain lack of occasion to know one another, as well as conflict. Nowhere is this more evident than in the average church parish, particularly in parishes which have more than one service on a Sunday. We have known people who have attended a parish faithfully for years, committed people who have always attended a particular service, and who know virtually nothing about the people who attend the other regular services of the church just as faithfully. This is virtually inevitable in very large parishes, but we have also seen it in smaller parishes and it is a hindrance to the realization of true communion.
Out of the efforts of the Coventry leadership to rebuild both the parish and the building grew a particular commitment to the work of reconciliation, at every level. The spirit of reconciliation fostered there flowered into an international fellowship known as the Community of the Cross of Nails which is committed to the work of reconciliation on both the local and the international level. One of the most effective vehicles for intra-parish reconciliation and fellowship which was first developed in Coventry is a simple program called "foyers." Foyers are small groups of people who gather for a simple meal and conversation once a month for six months. The groups are randomly selected from the pool of interested people in a parish so there are almost always people who are strangers to one another or who know one another only very slightly. The hallmarks of this program are hospitality and simplicity. There is no agenda, other than getting to know one another. Gathering for a meal is one of the most basic and most hospitable things we do as human beings. Your parish might not have foyers but why not begin making plans now to invite some fellow parishioners to your home for a simple Lenten meal sometime in the next few weeks? Ask your parish clergy to help you assemble a guest list (no more than five or six guests) and to introduce you, if necessary, to some parishioners who would be open to such a sharing. If the experience is successful (and we are sure that it will be), a seed will have been planted. Perhaps your original group will gather again. Perhaps the idea will spread and other groups will form. At the very least, you will have new friends among the people with whom you regularly worship, and you will have made a concrete contribution to the Church's work of reconciliation. Here is a link to one parish's explanation of the full foyer program.
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