Americans pray, reflect on September 11 anniversary

Americans pray, reflect on September 11 anniversary

Believers across the United States heard from faith leaders as millions of Americans wrestled with the spiritual challenges and lessons of the terror attacks of September 11.

On the tenth anniversary, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan called the attacks in 2001 battles in “a war between sin and grace,” a war mirrored within every human soul, reports USA Today via Religion News Service.

In his homily to a packed St Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on September 11, 2011, Dolan concluded that God won “as temptations to despair, fearful panic, revenge and dread gave way to such things as rescue, recovery, rebuilding, outreach and resilience.”

At the official memorial service in Lower Manhattan, where no clergy were assigned to speak, President Barack Obama recited Psalm 46, which concludes: “The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

A group of 50 conservative evangelical pastors and supporters organised by the Family Research Council knelt in prayer and song by the fence surrounding the Ground Zero site the day before to protest their clergy’s exclusion from the official event in New York and from an interfaith service in Washington.

Washington National Cathedral, home to the capital’s interfaith memorial service in 2001, held its vigil with prayers and songs and spiritual commentary in a borrowed sanctuary at the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

The massive Gothic cathedral was significantly damaged recently by an earthquake, Hurricane Irene and a week of heavy rains.

The voices were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh — from the call to prayer in each religion, sung from the synagogue balcony, to the concluding call by Rajwant Singh of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education: “Oh God, embrace anyone who reaches to you from any door.”

The Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington, said the question always asked in extreme tragedy — “What kind of God would allow this?” — is really a prompt to question ourselves. What kind of people are we and how might we affirm that we are all people of God?

The Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd III, dean of the cathedral, called the interwoven prayers and chants in the sanctuary a symphony to “the hidden oneness within the human race.” He said, “God yearns to see us like this.”

At a cathedral “Concert for Hope” that was moved to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Obama again turned to the Bible, this time from Psalm 30, saying that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

“Our character as a nation has not changed” in the decade since 9/11, he said. “Our faith — in God and in each other — that has not changed.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed hundreds of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Baha’i as well as civic and religious leaders from across Southern California to city hall on 10 September to turn “the darkest day in American history” into a “OneLight” evening prayer service of unity and peace, reports Episcopal News Service.

“Today we say a prayer … together for peace. We pray for tolerance. We pray for understanding. We pray for perseverance. We continue not just to memorialize the fallen but also to celebrate our values — what makes us different and yet what makes us all the same,” Villaraigosa said. Attendees represented some 500 houses of worship.

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti thanked first responders, such as the Los Angles police and fire departments, as well as religious leaders “who are first responders in our own lives every day.” He also thanked Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles bishop Jon Bruno for conceiving the idea for the OneLight celebration and bringing it to civic leaders and the city’s Council of Religious Leaders.

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Western Region, cited Bruno for “sharing his dream with us … and guiding the citizens of this great city with his dream, of one light, one peace, one world.” Bruno encouraged the gathering to become “the living hands of healing in this world around us.”

Ecumenical News International

Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for USA Today.

Kara Rose and Kevin Eckstrom contributed to this report.

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