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By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt

Over the years I have collected a lot of “stuff”. My collection of material things causes angst for family members who look into the future and imagine a moment when all my “stuff” will come into their possession. Yet, from my perspective, those things which I look at and enjoy are filled with memories.

There is a distinct joy which comes from holding a piece of driftwood which I picked up from the banks of the St John River in New Brunswick, near my first parish more than forty years ago. It has served as the shelter under which I place a Christmas creche scene. At other times during the year ornaments and decorations find a place in its branches. It serves as a gentle reminder of people, places and events in my life and ministry.

The need of being reminded of significant moments in life is not unusual. We wield our cell phones with abandon to recall people and places. Some folks record and circulate pictures of plates of food that they wish to remember, and perhaps seek to replicate. Individual memories may become faulty, and, it has been famously said, ”sometimes memories differ”.

Community and institutional memories are also dependent on having tangible symbols which carry a message and are significant in their own unique way. At the centre of many communities a Cenotaph stands to honour the sacrifice of citizen soldiers. The marker provides a reminder that individuals fought for a cause that they believed would lead to peace and justice in the world, whether they lived to see it, or not.

Looking back on the experience of crossing the River Jordan, Joshua determined that the people of Israel should not forget the moment. He commanded that stones from the river be used to construct a memorial of the event. (Joshua 4) There are other moments in Scripture where gathering stones together to mark a location or a significant moment offered a way in which God’s people sought to remember.

Closer to home, in our own St. Paul’s Cathedral, in St. David’s Chapel, the stones used in the construction of the altar have a message. A stone from each deanery in the diocese and a stone from Canterbury were used in its construction linking our diocesan family with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

A familiar sight on the landscape of Northern Canada and in many other locations spread throughout the treeless global Arctic regions, the use of stone structures mark places of significance. The Inukshuk generates a message unique to its location. Safe passage, a cache of food or some other sign meaningful for those who will see it standing out on the horizon make the Inukshuk a symbol of with a message. Used to capture the essence of the Canadian experience, Inukshuks appear in Canadian embassies and a wide variety of locations far removed from the North. They stand as iconic symbols of our national identity. 

Recently, an intimate crowd gathered at St. Paul’s Cathedral to mark a significant moment in the life of the Diocese of Huron. Following through on conversations initiated by Dean Paul Millward the Diocese of Huron is now part of the Community of the Cross of Nails. This global community is rooted in the devastating destruction of St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England during a bombing raid which took place in 1940.

In 1963, shortly after its construction, I visited the new Cathedral in Coventry, with my parents. My father was participating in an Anglo-American Preachers Exchange. Although Coventry was not one of the places included in his tour, because of its history, Dad made sure that we included it as a part of our own itinerary. I vividly remember walking through the bombed-out Cathedral, passing a statue of victorious St Michael, (Revelation 12:7), into the new building. 

A Sacrament is defined as ”an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”. (Book of Common Prayer pg. 550)

As I have reflected on my experience of visiting Coventry all those years ago, it seems to me that the old and the new Cathedrals, built side by side preach a sermon of moving from death and destruction to new life and resurrection. They are as much structures with a message and meaning as a piece of driftwood, a pile of stones, a Cenotaph, an Inukshuk or a Cross of Nails.

As he presented the Cross of Nails to Bishop Townshend and the Diocese of Huron under the stewardship of Dean George and the congregation of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Dean Witcombe of Coventry, reflected on the signs and symbols which surround us. He shared the unique story of the Cross of Nails. Then, as he presented the Cross of Nails to the Bishop, he said,” Guard this Cross as a symbol of your strength to work and pray for peace, justice and reconciliation and live at peace with all people as far as it depends on you”.

As a Diocesan Family we are being called into an experience of reconciliation at the heart of our shared ministry. Look for the Cross of Nails the next time you visit St Paul’s Cathedral. Dean Witcombe highlighted the value of both a personal and corporate reflection on St. Paul’s words that we have all been ” enlisted…in this service of reconciliation” ( 2 Corinthians 5:18 - 19 ). At the heart of this message of reconciliation are the words of Jesus which are carved into the walls Coventry’s bombed out Cathedral.

“Father Forgive"

Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full-time parish ministry but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.

Our prayer journey to a Cross of Nails

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

FOR: The hatred which divides nation from nation, race, from race, class from class.


The covetous desires of peoples and nations to possess what is not their own,


The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,


Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,


Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,


The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,


The pride which allows us to trust in ourselves and not in God,


Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.

Rev. Stephanie Donaldson, AFP Huron

A prayer journey accomplished: Rev. Stephanie Donaldson, AFP executive,  with John Whitcombe, Dean of Coventry, Dean Kevin George and Dean Paul Millward in front of the Cross of Nails, April 27, 2024