On Friday, September 9th I was grumbling a bit to our weekly breakfast group about what might be coming along in the way of observing the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Then, after attending church on September 11th, I sent those friends, and a few others, the following email about my impressions. To my surprise, several of our friends not only wrote thanking me for that email, one calling it “a light in the great darkness,” but also said they were forwarding it to other friends and family.
Here is the email I sent:
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As several of you know, at breakfast on Friday I was grumbling about the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary hoopla. Well . . . on Saturday we finally received our issue of Time magazine, and I defy anyone to read that without being wrung out. I commend
Time for the dignity of the issue.
And then today, church was – well, I am groping for one adequate adjective – awesome. It succeeded largely because of things it was not. It was not maudlin, it was not pessimistic or anxious or defeatist, and, especially, it was not jingoistic.
You knew we were off on the right foot when you saw, processing in with all the Christian priests (including our Lutheran canon Jack Lindquist), our Rabbi-in-Residence Laurie Coskey, and the head of San Diego’s Islamic Center, Imam Taha Hassane, a fairly frequent visitor to St. Paul’s.
The Collect of the Day was a specially written prayer for this special day:
God the compassionate one, whose loving care extends to all the world, we remember this day the children of many nations and many faiths whose lives were cut short by the fierce flames of anger and hatred. Console those who continue to suffer and grieve, and give them comfort and hope as they look to the future. Out of what we have endured, give us the grace to examine our relationships with those who perceive us as the enemy, and show our leaders the way to use our power to serve the good of all for the healing of the nations.
Rabbi Laurie read the first lesson, from Genesis. Before she began, she explained that she would be chanting a prayer in Hebrew that the word be well received. Near the end of that prayer, with a grin she chanted in English, “And for full credit, the people say ‘Amen,’” and we all joined in. When she chanted again at the end of the reading, we all came in on cue. There was a line in that first lesson that read, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”
All three lessons dwelt on the theme of forgiveness, which the dean picked up on in his sermon, especially how good can come out of evil. There was also a very interesting announcement in his sermon about the opening of Claremont Lincoln University, an apparently unique seminary where Christians, Jews and Muslims can prepare for ministry. (http://www.claremontlincoln.org/about)
The Prayers of the People, in addition to prayers for our leaders, for those who mourn, and those who live in fear and anxiety, included, “For our enemies, the ones for whom we would rather not pray, and for ourselves: lead us from prejudice to truth, deliver us from hatred and revenge; give us courage to overcome our fears and build bridges, that we may stand before you reconciled.”
During the clergy greetings, Imam Taha first chanted a prayer in Arabic, and then recalled the warm welcome extended to him by St. Paul’s when he first arrived in San Diego about seven years ago. Rabbie Laurie recalled being in the sanctuary the night of September 11, 2001, and realizing at that time that St. Paul’s is her spiritual home. She said there is no other house of worship in this country where she feels so much at home. She is not currently associated with any synagogue, but is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.
Sorry if this long message comes across as a commercial for St. Paul’s. . .[D]ays like today make us acknowledge there is something special and soul-enriching there.
Peace and love to all,