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Coventry Remembrance Sunday Service 2017
13/11/17

On the 12th November 2017, Bishop Christopher addressed the people of Coventry during the Remembrance Sunday Service at the city's War Memorial.

Bishop Christopher introduced the service by saying:

Lord Mayor, Deputy-Lord Lieutenant, Members of the City Council, Member of Parliament, Herr Stadtpräsident, Herr Bürgermeister of Kiel, our first twin city, Members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and other uniformed bodies, People of Coventry: I invite you to prepare for our city’s Remembrance Service.

As we gather today, 100 years ago the First World Wat still raged in Europe. So many Coventrians had already given their lives for the freedom of their country, as would tens of thousands more over its final year.

Since we last stood together here to remember them with thanksgiving, as well as those who died serving their country in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts, war and conflict have continued to steal the lives of countless thousands since in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Northern Nigeria.  We have endured terrorizing events in the streets of London and the heart of Manchester. We have even contemplated the possibility of nuclear war being unleashed on humanity.

Greed, envy and hatred still stoke the fires of violence as human beings, capable of so much good, inflict great evil on each other.

Soon after the nations of Great Britain and Germany ceased their warring in 1945, a British Officer, Gwillym Williams, a Coventry man was stationed in Kiel to – in the words of the reading will we hear later, ‘repair the ruined city’. He deeply impressed Kiel’s post-war Mayor, Andreas Gayk, who wrote in Kiel’s newspaper, ‘The man, whose home town has been ruthlessly demolished by the German Luftwaffe  . . . did everything in his power to help a town which suffered the fate of his own native town, and to alleviate the distress which he had known from his own experience’.

Kiel’s mayor went on to say that ‘the chasm that has been torn open between the peoples of Europe must be bridged over by mutual understanding’. The then Lord Mayor of Coventry, George Briggs responded with equal generosity and with a trade Union representative and Provost Dick Howard from the Cathedral and the Coventry Corps of Drums, visited Kiel in 1947 to forge a new relationship of peace built on understanding and reconciliation. ‘Make our friendship last forever’, the Lord Mayor of Coventry wrote in the Kiel Council visitors book, and Provost Howard presented the war damaged St Nikolai Church with a Cross of Nails.

In September some of us, visited Kiel with the Lord Mayor to mark those heroic actions of reconciliation. And is a great honour that the City President Herr Hans-Werner Tovar and Kiel’s Mayor Dr Ulf Kämpfer with other distinguished guests are with us today to celebrate this friendship of 70 years.

Like our predecessors, we want that friendship to last for ever, because it shows the world – a world still at war – that friendship is better than conflict, that peace is better than war and that reconciliation between peoples who fought each other is possible.

The story of Kiel and Coventry reminds us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Gwillym Williams, a Coventrian, knowing his city had endured the horrors of war, reached out to another suffering people, the one-time enemy, to forge a new relationship of peace through friendship and to build a better world together.

He did so under the sign of the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross onto which Jesus was violently nailed, the cross by which, he disarmed violence and defeated death. The cross by which we are reconciled to God and to each other.

We stand under the sign of that cross today, and we have the opportunity at the beginning of our service to pray again the prayer of Jesus, the prayer which Provost Howard inscribed onto the ruins of the Cathedral and made our own in the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, led today by the Dean of Kiel, Thomas Lienau-Becker and the Dean of Coventry, John Witcombe.

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