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The Power of Forgiveness

The burnt cross of Coventry Cathedral

by Guy Donegan-Cross (revised, originally published in 2006)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the theme of forgiveness.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show the image of Coventry Cathedral.

    Explain that the foundation stone for this cathedral was laid in March 1956 following the destruction of the previous cathedral.

  2. Explain that during the Second World War, on 14 November 1940, Coventry was heavily bombed by the Germans. The town was devastated, as was the cathedral. However, the following morning, the decision was taken to rebuild the cathedral, not as a gesture of defiance, but as a sign of faith and hope for the future.

  3. Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins, where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father forgive’ inscribed on the sanctuary wall.

    Show the image of the burnt cross of Coventry Cathedral.

    Today, the ruins stand next to the modern cathedral and the cross is a reminder of the importance of forgiveness.

  4. Ask the students, Why should human beings try to forgive each other, especially in times of war?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  5. Tell the following story.

    There was a priest in the Philippines who carried the burden of a secret wrong he had committed many years before. He had repented, but still had no sense of God’s forgiveness. In his church was a woman who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Jesus. The priest, however, was sceptical. To test her, he said, ‘Next time you speak with Jesus, I want you to ask him what wrong your priest committed while he was in Bible College.
    The woman agreed. A few days later, the priest asked, Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?
    Yes, he did, she replied.
    And did you ask him what wrong I committed in Bible College?
    Yes, replied the woman.
    Well, what did he say? asked the priest.
    The woman replied, He said, “I dont remember.”

  6. Christians believe that God forgives through Jesus. In this forgiveness, there is hope for everyone in the world.

Time for reflection

Ask the students to look at the picture of the burnt cross. Ask them to think about how difficult it must have been for the people who had seen their homes destroyed to forgive.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Ask the students if there are people whom they need to forgive.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Ask if there are people whom we know we have wronged in some way. Are there people whom we need to ask for forgiveness?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
Thank you that you are a God who forgives.
Thank you that you do not hold things against us.
Teach us to be like you.
Teach us to forgive quickly.
Help us to say sorry when we need to.
Teach us the power of forgiveness and the power of love.


God is love (Come and Praise, 36)

Publication date: February 2019   (Vol.21 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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