Last week I shared the experience of taking dolls of hope and peace to children who live in the shadows of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. I took this journey with four other individuals from Wilmington College — three students, Tanya Maus, the Director of the Peace Resource Center, and myself.
We not only carried 108 rag dolls, but an old wooden cross packed neatly in an old guitar case. This cross came to the Peace Resource Center in 1982 as a gift from a former Marine by the name of Walter Hook.
Walter was stationed in Nagasaki after the August 9, 1945 atomic bombing there. He was a dedicated Catholic who discovered, in the bombed-out rubble of the Urakami Cathedral, this old wooden cross. I am sure he wondered how the cross survived the bombing when the worshippers that morning all perished, alongside 8,000 civilians in the surrounding community.
It is reported that Walter became friends with the Bishop in Nagasaki, and the cross he discovered was given to him as a gift. Walter then mailed it to his mother who lived in the states.
Upon Walter’s return to the states, he became an advocate and worked for health care rights for soldiers who suffered from radiation poisoning, as well as working toward the disarmament of nuclear weapons. This is how he met Barbara Reynolds, Quaker advocate for disarmament and former Director of the Peace Resource Center of the college.
Sometime in 2017, Tanya Maus determined with assistance that the cross belonged to the people of the Urakami Cathedral – and so the journey began.
The people of the Cathedral were thrilled the cross was coming home and started preparing for its return for the August 9, 2019 Commemoration Ceremony of the bombing.
Tanya asked me if I would carry the cross in this ceremony, to which I replied yes — yet I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
One of the scripture texts for this week is from the Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9; it is the story of the Transfiguration. I am especially drawn to verse 7, where Jesus touches a disciple who is afraid and states, “Get up and do not be afraid.” I was afraid to carry the cross that night in a place where so many lives perished.
For me this cross was a symbol of deep pain and sorrow – yet filled with hope. It was the reconciliation between a Marine from the states, by the name of Walter and a Bishop from Nagasaki. Both men had seen the devastation of the A bomb.
These two men should have been enemies; instead, they found their common ground through the cross which represented transformation and reconciliation.
It was because of them I carried the cross. I carried the cross for those who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor. I carried the cross for the school children – children 74 years ago, dancing, singing, smiling and playing, only to be no more.
I will continue to carry the cross for them as I stand opposed to nuclear weapons. I carried the cross for all who perished – in any kind of war. I carried the cross because I was asked to.
As I took that journey to the altar, it almost seemed unbearable for me to carry something that was filled with such horror. Maybe it was the nudge from the ancestors that filled the room that night; maybe it was the beauty of the children’s choir, or maybe it was the call of being in Sacred Community – I don’t know.
Yet when I think of that wooden Cross and the cross Jesus carried, I hear the call of courage coming from Christ and am reminded of the call to Be Peace, but most of all I will carry the cross to be an agent of God’s Radical Love. Can you hear the call of Christ? “Get up and do not be afraid.” (v.7)
What are the ways you are called to carry the cross?
Nancy McCormick is Co-Pastor of Chester Friends and Springfield Friends Meetings.