German Lutheran installed as Honorary Canon Theologian in Coventry

31 May 2023

The German Lutheran theologian Oliver Schuegraf has been installed as Honorary Canon Theologian of the Anglican Cathedral of Coventry in recognition of his ecumenical work and for his participation in the Community of the Cross of Nails.

Rev. Dr. Oliver Schuegraf

Rev. Dr. Oliver Schuegraf during the installation ceremony as Canon Theologian at Coventry Cathedral. Photo: Tim Wagner 

Rev. Dr. Schuegraf recognized for long-standing commitment to dialogue, peace and reconciliation 

(LWI) - Honoring his dedicated engagement, Rev. Dr. Oliver Schuegraf was installed as Honorary Canon Theologian of the Anglican Cathedral of Coventry, England, on 25 May. Coventry is the city of origin of the international Community of the Cross of Nails, which has worked for peace and reconciliation in Europe and beyond since World War II. 

Schuegraf is one of the cathedral's four Honorary Canon Theologians. He works as church executive for ecumenical and theological studies at the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF). He also chairs the German Cross of Nails Community since 2011 and is a member of the international board of the Community of the Cross of Nails. 

"Schuegraf's work connects all levels of church life. He is a member of the LWF's Anglican Lutheran International Commission on Unity and Mission (ALICUM), and a promoter of reconciliation work and a respected ecumenist at the national level,” said the executive director of the GNC/LWF, Rev. Norbert Denecke. “He is also a dedicated preacher in local congregations. We welcome his appointment as Canon Theologian of Coventry Cathedral." 

"We are immensely grateful for the experience Oliver brings from his work at the GNC/LWF," said The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral. This is "a very happy connection for which he is uniquely qualified, given his deep knowledge of and sympathy for the church in the United Kingdom, especially Coventry, and in Germany." 

Long-standing commitment 

"I have been connected to the Community of the Cross of Nails since I worked in Coventry from 2002 to 2006 as a student chaplain at Coventry University and coordinator of the Community of the Cross of Nails at Coventry Cathedral," said Schuegraf. 

The Community of the Cross of Nails operates in some 250 centers in 45 countries, each working locally for reconciliation. Its tasks also include "creating opportunities to stay in conversation and fellowship with one another, sharing experiences of suffering and successful reconciliation, and praying for one another," Schuegraf said. "Further, in addition to healing historical wounds, a central task is to be sensitive to where we need to work for peace and justice today."

The Cross of Nails

The Cross of Nails was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old Coventry cathedral. Photo: Tom Bastin (CC-BY) 

From the Cross of Nails to the Cross of Nails Community 

The Community of the Cross of Nails can be traced back to World War II. On 14 November 1940, the German Luftwaffe flew a heavy air raid on Coventry, destroying much of the city and causing the most deaths of any German air raid in England. On Christmas Day 1940, in a national radio broadcast from the ruins of the cathedral, Provost Richard Howard called not for revenge but a commitment to reconciliation. The sign of that commitment is the "Cross of Nails" assembled from three carpenter's nails taken from the roof beams of the burnt medieval cathedral. 

As a symbol of growing trust and shared responsibility for peace, crosses of nails were brought to Kiel, Dresden, Berlin and many other cities destroyed in the war. In the course of time, places in other countries and in new crisis areas were added. An international network for peace and reconciliation developed, from which the international Community of the Cross of Nails emerged in 1974. Cross of Nails centers can now be found in many countries around the world, including Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Cuba, Great Britain, India, Jordan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Romania, Slovakia, Sudan, and the United States of America.

LWF/A. Weyermüller