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Episcopal churches mark anniversary of terrorist attacks

030915-1
9/15/2003
[Episcopal News Service]  Episcopal churches across the nation served as gathering places for their communities this September 11 to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon just two years ago.

President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, began the day's commemorations at St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, where FBI director Robert S. Mueller III and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell read the lessons for the service of remembrance. "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers
over the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places," Mueller read from Ephesians 6:12-18. Powell followed with a reading from Matthew 6:25-34: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself."

Church bells tolled in many communities. A bell at a downtown Baltimore Episcopal church tolled once for each victim.

Not a footprint but a scar

In Yorktown, New York, the Rev. Claire Woodley Aitchison of St. Mary's in Mohegan Lake brought tissues for tears, bottled water for dry throats and anointing oil for healing to the Shrub Oak Memorial Pavilion, as residents marked the day by placing flowers, singing "Amazing Grace," and observing moments of silence. 

"I was looking at the footprint of those buildings (on TV) this morning, and I thought, that's not a footprint, that's a scar. That's a scar on the soul of this nation," said the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chatham, New Jersey, where a memorial prayer service was held. "It will be years before it fully heals."

In Greenwich, Connecticut, a wealthy community considered by some a virtual suburb of New York, 20 residents were killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Several hundred residents attended an interfaith service sponsored by the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy and held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Riverside in the evening. Nearly every pew at the church was full, and more than a dozen religious leaders from many of the town's congregations took part in the service.

Stopping the cycle of violence

In Virginia's Roanoke Valley, residents gathered to honor the victims and to hear the Rev. Bob Beasley of St. John's in Southwest Roanoke speak of stopping the violence. "Ultimately reconciliation is what we want, not more spiraling into the cycle of violence," he said.

The Rev. Karl Ruttan, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston, West Virginia, was in New York on the day of the attacks, attending a conference at Trinity Church. "We gathered at 8:45, and the first plane hit at 8:46," Ruttan said.

As he recalled the experience to a local reporter, Ruttan said the ordeal has made him more aware of the fragility of life and the values he holds dear. "We who live in the wealthiest nation in the world need to be careful to use our wealth for the good of all people, not just for the good of ourselves," he said. "We need to have dialogue and reach out to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and nonbelievers. We need to talk to
and respect them."

Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims led a lunch-hour interfaith prayer service at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa, Florida. About 60 people attended, praying that public reaction to the attacks would lead to a yearning for peace. "Guard and guide our leaders and all our peoples that, in our search for security, we may not trample the rights of the innocent nor disregard the rule of law," they prayed.

A place to put grief

In the West Texas city of Odessa, the Rev. Laura Deaderick of St. John's asked to read the list that had Timothy Aaron Haviland's name on it. "He was in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, and he was 41 years old. I worked with his father, the Rev. Doug Haviland, an Episcopal priest, in Ames, Iowa, and I met Timothy once.

"I believe we should be evermore dedicated to rebuilding and not forgetting what happened that day," Deaderick said. "By reading these names, we feel a connection with those who mourn. We wouldn't have known these people otherwise, so it's what we do with these names now and in the future that matters."

The Rev. Tim Rich of St. John's in Portsmouth, New  Hampshire, recalled that there was an immediate attendance spike at his church followingthe attacks which lasted a few weeks and then receded. Attendance has still been on the rise over the past couple of years, he said. "But we don't have people coming in saying after Sept. 11 they have to get themselves in church or closer to God," he said. "On the Sunday after 9/11, when there was the most pronounced spike, I was really just happy that we could have the experience of community and the experience of worship as a place to put our grief."