Churches plan to commemorate first anniversary of September 11 terrorist attacks

August 15, 2002

Churches across the nation are completing plans for special ways to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon.

St. Paul's Chapel, part of New York's Trinity Parish, is a few blocks from the ground zero site. It miraculously survived the collapse of the towers, and served as a place of refuge for the rescue workers. Trinity is arranging a series of church services and events around the theme, 'A Day of Hope and Healing.'

The chapel will be open to visitors all day and premiere an exhibition highlighting its eight-month-long ministry to recovery workers. Trinity will hold a service of morning prayer at 8am and a choral service at 11am with Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey and Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. At the service the Lord Mayor of London, Michael Oliver, will present a commemorative church bell as a symbol of sympathy from the City of London to the people of New York. The service will be broadcast live on the BBC.

The bells at St. Paul's and Trinity will ring regularly during the day, including at 10:29am, the time when the second tower collapsed. The church's bells will conclude civic ceremonies at the site.

Other churches in the Diocese of New York will mark the anniversary with a variety of services, concerts, and tolling of church bells. At the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and several parishes the names of the thousands who died will be read. The diocese is also participating in a multi-media project, '9/11: A Spiritual Response,' in cooperation with the Church Pension Group, Church Publishing, Trinity Parish and the New York Historical Society. It will illustrate and analyze the religious dimensions of the church's response.

Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) has prepared a 10-minute video, 'Witness at Ground Zero,' and sent it to Episcopal parishes throughout the church, 'to serve as a focus of reflection for your congregation, either as part of a church service, Bible study, or for use during your coffee hour.' The video includes reflections by the presiding bishop during services at SCI a few days after the attack, focusing on the lessons for Holy Cross Day.

Tutu at National Cathedral

At Washington National Cathedral a series of events will begin at 8am with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa leading an Interfaith Service of Remembrance that will include Christian, Muslim and Jewish participants. They will be joined by Congressional leaders, as well as members of the judiciary and administrative branches of government and the diplomatic corps.

On the West Coast, St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle is planning a Week of Remembrance with an emphasis on 'reconciliation, peace, justice and hope,' opening its doors at 5:30am on September 11. At St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego a 7pm service will feature John Rutter's Requiem. A service of prayer and remembrance will begin at 5:30am at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles and the bells will begin at 5:46am, the time when the first plane struck the WTC in New York.

Many Episcopal churches across the country will join community-wide ecumenical and interfaith observances. In Massachusetts a statewide service will include participation by the Corps of Fire Chaplains, many of whom served for seven weeks at the site of the WTC. Volunteers at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis will read the names of those killed and the cathedral will host an interfaith prayer service at noon.

Many resources available

A wide variety of worship resources are available, many of them ecumenical and easily adapted for use in local parishes.

The office of the bishop for the Armed Services, Healthcare and Prison Ministries is compiling a list of materials and websites to support education forums and youth groups. ( 'After collation and review, some of these resources will be e-mailed to all parishes via the new e-mail newsletter of the Episcopal Church Communication Network,' according to Bishop George Packard. Information from the newsletter will also be available on the church's web site at, including a collect especially written for commemoration of September 11 by Griswold. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is offering a Day of Remembrance Liturgy written by the Rev. David Selzer and available at

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has encouraged Christian churches to participate in an Interfaith Hospitality Project, calling on congregations to 'extend an Open House welcome to neighboring Muslims' in September. 'In the days following the tragic events of last September, the doors of many houses of worship were opened, as people who were looking for comfort and meaning sought out places to reflect and to gather with others to pray,' according to the NCC invitation. 'During those days responsible leaders reminded us that it was a group of Islamist terrorists, and not Islam nor ordinary American Muslims, that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.'

The NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission has posted materials to help congregations considering the open house project, which may be downloaded and used freely, with credit to the NCC. A Litany of Remembrance, Penitence and Hope is available at

Other web sites that might be helpful:

Related Topics: