Episcopal Church to mark 10th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Presiding bishop calls for reflection, commitment to peace
August 17, 2011

Episcopal Church and other religious leaders are planning interfaith events to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when almost 3,000 people perished after hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Executive Council, at its June meeting, invited all Episcopal communities "to open the doors of their institutions" during the Sept. 10-11 weekend to commemorate the anniversary "with acts of prayer and remembrance, service, creativity, interfaith cooperation, education, community building, and fellowship, offering our institutions as active, accessible sites of healing for our local communities."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in an Aug. 18 statement that the anniversary is "an opportunity for reflection," adding that the Episcopal Church "continues to work for healing and reconciliation."

"The greatest memorial to those who died 10 years ago will be a world more inclined toward peace," said Jefferts Schori, who will preach at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, at St. Paul's Chapel in New York, a few meters from where the World Trade Center stood, and at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Acknowledging that "many people died senselessly that day, and [that] many still grieve their loss," the presiding bishop said, "We believe there is hope."

Following the terrorist attacks, she said, church communities in many places "began to reach out to their neighbors of other faiths, offering reassurance in the face of mindless violence. That desire for greater understanding of other traditions has continued, and there are growing numbers of congregations engaged in interfaith dialogue, discovering that all the great religions of the world are fundamentally focused on peace."

In the aftermath of 9/11, Trinity Church and St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan became sanctuaries for those seeking consolation.

For eight months after the attacks, St. Paul's Chapel served as home to a volunteer relief effort, "becoming a place of renewal and inspiration for Ground Zero's physically and spiritually weary," a Trinity Church press release said.

"People of faith gave sacrificially in the immediate aftermath of the plane crashes," said Jefferts Schori in her statement. "St. Paul's Chapel … opened its doors to the emergency responders, and volunteers appeared with food and socks, massaging hands and praying hearts. Volunteers continued to staff the chapel for months afterward, and prayers were offered as human remains were sought and retrieved in the ruins of the towers."

As it did a decade ago, Trinity will open its doors in September to all seeking spiritual refuge. "The parish will honor the memory of those so tragically lost, and mark the unparalleled efforts of the first responders, recovery workers and volunteer community with community observances offering contemplation, solace and the embrace of a hopeful future," the Trinity release said.

A series of commemorative events will be held at Trinity and St. Paul's from Sept. 6 to 11 under the theme "Remember to Love."

During the six days, the public will be invited to tie white ribbons – symbols of remembrance – with the words "Remember to Love" on the fence around St. Paul's Chapel. Names and prayers may be written on the ribbons.

On Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. acclaimed author and teacher Sharon Salzberg will lead a workshop, "Meditation on Lovingkindness," that will focus on remembering to love, "cultivating a deep sense of caring for self and for all of creation." The event will be held at Charlotte's Place, a storefront community center of Trinity Church located at 109 Greenwich Street.

An all-night vigil will be observed from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning on Sept. 10, when St. Paul's Chapel will stay open for informal prayer, meditation, and labyrinth walks.

On Sept. 11, events and services will run throughout the day, commencing with Holy Eucharist at 7:30 a.m. with Jefferts Schori as preacher and Diocese of New York Bishop Mark Sisk celebrating.

Other events will include the ringing of the bell of hope, in remembrance of 9/11 victims, at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center; Holy Eucharist at 11:15 a.m.; the unveiling and blessing of an "Out of Many, One" flag at Charlotte's Place at 1 p.m.; a service honoring first responders, recovery workers and volunteers at St. Paul's Chapel at 2:30 p.m.; an interfaith ringing of the bell of hope, in remembrance of the victims, at 7:14 p.m.; and a candlelit Compline service at Trinity Church at 8 p.m.

All events are free and open to the public. For further information call 212-602-0800 or visit http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/911.

Washington National Cathedral has announced a three-day commemoration, titled "A Call to Compassion," in collaboration with the Pentagon Memorial Fund, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the Flight 93 National Memorial. The three days will culminate on Sept. 11, when the cathedral will toll its 12-ton funeral bell at the moments when airplanes struck the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, hit the Pentagon, and crashed in Pennsylvania.

"A Concert to Honor" on Sept. 9 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. will include a performance of Brahms' Requiem remembering the 9/11 victims and survivors, their families, and emergency response personnel, as well as the nearly 6,000 military service members whose lives have since been lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Performers in the concert will include the Marine Chamber Orchestra and the United States Navy Band Sea Chanters with the Cathedral Choir.

"A Concert to Heal" on Sept. 10 from 1 to 3 p.m. will feature local artists and music encouraging interfaith understanding across cultures and generations to experience healing from loss and division. "On this day, we recall the unity Americans felt in the face of the attacks on 9/11, and the common values that helped us become stronger as one nation and one people," notes a cathedral press release.

"A Concert for Hope" on Sept. 11 from 8 to 10 p.m. will conclude the cathedral's 9/11 anniversary commemorations with a program of poetry, reading, reflections, and classical and popular music. Performers will include Denyce Graves and the Marine Chamber Orchestra.

Also on Sept. 11, the cathedral will hold an interfaith prayer vigil from 8:30 to 10 a.m., when participants of diverse faiths can pray together and mark the moments when the airplanes struck. The vigil will be attended by Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III; Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane; Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation; Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche of Tibet, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama; D.C. Rao, a Hindu priest serving on the board of directors of the Inter Faith Conference; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; and musician Hamayan Kahn.

A forum on compassion from 10:15 to 11 a.m. will include author Karen Armstrong and Cathedral Dean Lloyd leading a conversation on what people of faith share in common.

A commemorative celebration of Holy Eucharist will be held from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will feature Chane as presider and preacher.

All events will be webcast live at http://www.nationalcathedral.org/ and take place either in the cathedral nave or on the grounds located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. All events, except those on the morning of Sept. 11, are ticketed. To reserve tickets, visit http://www.calltocompassion.com/.

In the Diocese of Western New York, Bishop William Franklin is urging congregations "to think creatively about what your parish might do to commemorate this 9/11" and to invite local elected officials, police and first responders to commemoration services, including a Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s Church in Lewiston at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11.

"It is in moments such as this that our communities often turn to the church for solace and hope," said Franklin, who visited Ground Zero a few days after the attacks and wrote about the spiritual significance of 9/11 in a book titled Will the Dust Praise You?

"But let us be ready to provide more than just solace and hope, let us also be prepared to provide loving and open communities into which all feel welcome," he added in a recent blog post
 
In the Diocese of Newark, Bishop Mark Beckwith will be joined by Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz of Temple B'Nai Jeshurun in Short Hills and Imam W. Deen Shareef of Masjid Waarith ud Deen in Irvington to lead an interfaith service, titled "Compassion in Action," at 3 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Trinity & St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark.

The service will blend scripture and reflections based on the Old and New Testaments and the Qur'an, music from the Jewish and Christian traditions and the Al-Adhaan, the Islamic call to worship.

On Sept. 10, the Los Angeles city hall will host OneLight, a vigil for peace, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Under the leadership of Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have partnered with the Los Angeles city council to hold the vigil at 7:15 p.m. "People of all faiths are invited and people of no faith are invited," said Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool. Saturday evening coincides with the end of the Sabbath for Muslims and Jews and the beginning of the Sabbath for Christians.

"We proactively wanted to say 'one light, one peace, one world' to have a visible sign of unity for peace to preempt any kind of terror or fear," said Glasspool.

The religious leaders, who include Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive director of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, intentionally picked a secular venue so that no one religious group would appear to be favored. Some 2,500 people are expected, and 500 commemorative glass light globes will be given out.

"The idea is for a representative from each house of worship – whether it's a church, a synagogue, a mosque, an ashram or a temple – to take a globe back to their home house of worship," says Glasspool. "It will be a huge celebration."

In the Diocese of Massachusetts, an interfaith evening prayer service will be held on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. at theCathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, with participation by members of the Muslim congregation that prays in the cathedral on Fridays.

Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford, Connecticut, will host a Festival of Peace and the Arts on Sept. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. The festival will welcome more than 40 peace-related organizations and will include speakers, presentations, dance and music. 

Also in Hartford, an alliance of interfaith and community organizations, including the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, has joined together to host "United in Peace, Healing with Hope," a 7 p.m. memorial service at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy will be the guest of honor, and four key speakers will focus on the topics unity, peace, healing and hope. The service will include prayers, poems and music from many faith traditions.

For further details on the service and the complete list of participating faith communities and organizations,.

At St. Paul's on the Green in Norwalk, Connecticut, a piece of rusted metal salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center will be unveiled during a memorial service on Sept. 11.

"This is an opportunity for us to welcome the community to participate in this service and take time to reflect on the memorial and what it means," said the Rev. Nicholas Lang, rector, according to The Hour.
 
In the Diocese of TexasSt. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston will hold a "Service of Prayer and Remembrance" at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11. St. Andrew's Church in Pearland plans to honor and bless first responders in remembrance of all those who lost their lives and their bereaved families.

In Austin, St. David's Episcopal Church has invited the entire community to join them for an "Evensong for Peace" at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11. The service of prayer and remembrance will include prayers "and deeply moving choral and organ anthems – all of which speak to the community's deepest desires for peace and reconciliation among all peoples," according to a diocesan news article.

"It is our desire to call our community together to remember our losses and the individual and corporate pain of the events of Sept. 11, 2001," said the Rev. David Boyd, rector of St. David's. "As people of faith, we seek to hold up hope and pray for peace among all people."

The Diocese of Texas has partnered with Compassionate Houston on a "Compassionate Weekend of Service." Organizations throughout Greater Houston will be to host activities with a compassionate focus.

"The city will be alive with compassionate citizens connecting and serving together," the news article said.

Further information and resources are available here.

In the Diocese of Southern VirginiaChrist Church in Danville is constantly reminded of the events of 9/11 – a parishioner's brother was killed that day and a stained glass window was placed in the church and dedicated to all victims of the attacks. Christ Church will commemorate the day at all services with special prayers and music.

Elsewhere in the diocese, Church of the Redeemer in Midlothian is inviting its local community and representatives of fire, rescue and police departments, service members and veterans to participate in a weekend of events. The church will be open all day Sept. 10 - 11 for visitation and prayer. A Candlelight Service of Remembrance will be held on Sept. 10 and the 10 a.m. service on Sept. 11 will include patriotic hymns and will be followed by a community picnic.

Emmanuel Church in Jenkins Bridge will host a special Commemorative Service of Remembrance and Prayer at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, prior to the regular Sunday morning service, and Trinity Church in Portsmouth will host a gathering of local pastors and community members at 7 p.m. for prayer, Scripture readings, hymns and reflecting on the lessons of the day and how God works in the midst of tragedy and grief.

In Pensacola, Florida, the Rev. Neal Goldsborough, a retired Navy chaplain, will speak about his ministry at the Pentagon following the attack. His talk will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 in the parish hall of Christ Episcopal Church and will be followed by "A Service of Reflection, Remembrance and Resolve."

Meanwhile, liturgical resources to help congregations commemorate the anniversary are been offered from several sources. The Diocese of Long Island has published suggested collects, readings and hymns here, while Forward Movement has set up a webpage of resources here, including “Meditations for a Time of Crisis,” a special issue of Forward Day by Day that was written in the days immediately following 9/11.

"The words in this booklet ring as true today as they did 10 years ago," notes a Forward Movement press release. "They still call us to mourn our losses – our loved ones, the selfless heroes who came forth to help, our sense of security and safety – and they still offer faith, comfort, strength, and hope."

Forward Movement is granting permission for any parish, organization, agency, or individual to reprint the resources for not-for-profit use, with the attribution "From Meditations for a Time of Crisis ©2001 Forward Movement. Reprinted with permission."

Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach has composed its own Litany of Remembrance which is available here.

Vicki Garvey, associate for lifelong Christian formation in the Diocese of Chicago, has compiled a list of websites and resources to help individuals and congregations mark the 9/11 anniversary. The Episcopal Peace Fellowshipincludes several links to worship resources for 9/11 commemorations.

The National Council of Churches also has prepared worship resources for churches, including a liturgy and a new hymn for use in 9/11 services of remembrance.

"For Christians in the U.S. and around the world, this 10th anniversary will be a time of prayer and remembrance for those who were lost, as well as a time for each of us to seek to discern God's will for ending the hatred and resentments that spawned the violence," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary.

In London, the Awareness Foundation is encouraging people to observe the anniversary with an emphasis on "remembrance, reconciliation and relationships."

The foundation, an ecumenical and educational initiative founded in 2003 in response to religious conflict and violence around the world, recently launched its Awareness Sunday initiative to focus on themes of peace and reconciliation surrounding the 9/11 anniversary.

The initiative is sponsoring a Sept. 11 commemoration at 6:30 p.m. at Westminster Abbey in London, with addresses from Courtney Cowart, a 9/11 survivor and Ground Zero volunteer in the months following the attacks, and the Rev. Nadim Nassar, a Syrian Anglican priest and director of the Awareness Foundation.

Cowart also is the featured preacher on Sept. 11 on a special edition of "Day 1," a nationally syndicated radio program accessible online at http://day1.org/. The program features a sermon by Cowart along with interviews conducted by producer and host Peter Wallace.
 
Cowart currently serves as director of Congregational Learning for The Fund for Theological Education in Atlanta, Georgia. She previously served as the co-director of the Office of Disaster Response for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Trinity Church when the planes struck the World Trade Center and they were told "to run for their lives."

Many more events and commemorations are being held in Episcopal churches and other locations throughout the U.S. and beyond. For information about Episcopal-related events specific to your region, contact your local diocese.

-- Matthew Davies is an Episcopal News Service editor/reporter.

Related Topics: