Bishop Paul V. Marshall Cathedral Church of the Nativity September 11, 2011
On behalf of the Episcopal Church in these fourteen counties of NE PA, it is my privilege to welcome to this place the distinguished leaders of several Lehigh Valley religious communities, and indeed all of you who are present at this moment of remembrance and hope.
It is, as each of us knows and feels, the anniversary of the vicious destruction of three thousand human lives ten years ago. Our worship tonight beautifully brings the riches or our several traditions together to assist us in the remembrance of those who have died. It expresses our concern for those who still live with the burden of grief or injury. We also remember those whose efforts at rescue and recovery ten years ago have cost them and their loved ones dearly.
Our technology allows us to relive the disasters of 9/11 on our screens at the touch of a button or click of a mouse. That fact informs some, but it has also kept wounds open for many more victims than we might suspect, and we remember all of those who are imprisoned by horrible memories.
Yet the words said and sung here may not in the long run be as significant as the very fact of our gathering together. Our presence enacts our wish to work together in a way that promotes a just peace in every place. We meet not on the level of our strengths or our defenses, but on the level of our grief, on the level of our tears. When we risk being vulnerable in each other’s presence, healing can happen.
The title on your leaflet is “Remembrance and Hope.” Remembrance and grief are well expressed in this worship service. We may have differing notions of what it means to remember the departed before Heaven and to ask the Creator to remember the dead. But surely we agree that to some degree the aspect of hope is left up to us to accomplish. I want to say a brief word about making way for hope.
This is hardly the occasion to say anything new, but I will try to put what we already know, and perhaps feel, into some kind of structured reflection. I hope I do so humbly and carefully.
The first hopeful observation is that tonight we suspend or at least transcend our reservations about those whom we perhaps sometimes presume to categorize as “other.” What we can do today we can do tomorrow, if we want to. Tonight we suspend or transcend our reservations because, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said, while we may not share a single faith we certainly share a single fate. Only a change in all of us at the cellular level can avoid that devastating fate.
There have been, as there always are, people who wish to mitigate the evil of 9/11 through a version of “understanding” the perpetrators. I find that abhorrent. The idea that if one has suffered enough one has license to be a monster must be rejected out of hand. What moral authority organized religion has left must, I think, say that clearly.
The sad truth that concerns us as religious people is that 9/11 happened because an evil man used religious language to foster in alienated and angry people a hatred cold, vicious, and refined enough for them to murder three thousand human beings without warning or opportunity to defend themselves.
We who uphold spiritual values must confront in our fellow believers such a misuse of religion if there is to be hope for the world. It is for each of us to ask how much and how often we have confronted the extremists in our own communities. How often do we give bad behavior a pass because we do not wish to be seen as critical of our own side—and the others are looking?
There are followers of every religion I have encountered who have used religious language and religious loyalties to instill attitudes or even incite deeds that defy the will of the One who called Abram so that all the world might find a blessing. We must forbid that defiance of Heaven—not among others, but among our co-religionists. I speak not of old-fashioned brotherhood or tolerance, of even King Empathy itself, but of the survival of our species.
If there is to be a future, it belongs to our children. In that regard I report that I am essentially a city boy, and have been around long enough to know that every religious group—and lots of religious sub-groups—have words of casual distain for those who are not like them. Our words shape our thinking. Does training for hatred start as our children hear these expressions that are so much a part of many vocabularies? Can we live without them? Do we want to live without them?
I know a country girl whose earliest memory of seeing a black man is neurologically fused with her experience of her mother clutching her hand somewhat desperately as the stranger approached. What might have come from such an experience? Again, I am not interested at this moment in good feelings, but in survival.
In the interest of survival there is a need for every group and nation to cease rationalizing their own behavior or the behavior of those they support while condemning the same acts when others do them. Can we who lead religious groups, while surely decrying the evils we see, also root out in ourselves all that degrades others? Can we root out all that externalizes blames and projects our negativity onto others? And here our various groups very much need each other’s feedback, as difficult as it may be to offer or to hear it. What is a casual remark in one vocabulary may be a grave insult in another.
We who bear, preserve, and hand on religious traditions have a very heavy responsibility in this regard. Religion by its nature touches and moves parts of us that are not entirely rational, not even conscious, and this can be a very good thing. Spiritual practices require a deliberate regression, just as art and music do, if we are to experience meaning deeply. It is because people come to religious moments in a regressed state that they are open to the sublime.
They are also open to demagoguery and hatred in those moments. They are especially vulnerable if they are afraid, or wounded, or if the speaker has some powerful slogans. If there is to be hope, those of us who lead or teach or influence religious institutions must remember the vulnerability of those who hear us and frame our words very carefully. A student once said to a professor that “with a little work you could be a mesmerizing speaker.” The professor told him that he worked even harder not to be mesmerizing. Our religious discourse ought never deprive our hearers of the ability to make moral and ethical judgments on their own, to say, “Hey, this is wrong.”
Just one more point. When I was a student back in the 60s, it was the politics of the left that was very critical and rejecting of the state. At this moment it seems that the right is having that experience. I don’t take a side here, but point out that everyone is capable of an attitude of alienation from their own country. The prophet Jeremiah, whom our several traditions all revere, had a word about that. To captives and exiles who had every reason to be bad citizens, he wrote: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
In its welfare you will find your welfare. I don’t expect to live long enough to see them teaching Civics again to high school students, and that is a pity. We must do it. We need to teach by word and example the values of community, the responsibilities of citizenship, the importance of fair play, and respect for the potential that lies in every human being. Actively seeking the good of humanity right where we live defies narcissism, greed, and hatred--and opens the path to peace. That is a hope worth pursuing if we are to survive and our children to thrive.
September 11 Services of Remembrance from around the diocese in chronological order
St. Anne's, Trexlertown: 8:00 and 10:15 A.M. During both services on September 11 we will have special prayers and remembrances to commemorate the lives that were lost on this dreadful day and to seek God’s guidance and wisdom as we live with the ramifications and impact of this national tragedy on our country and on the world. Please come to church prepared to stop whatever you are doing when you hear the sound of the drum and the cymbal. It will be a sacred moment of silent prayer. When you arrive at church on September 11, the greeters will remind you about keeping silence at these significant moments of September 11.
Christ Church, Forest City: 9:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers, and will host "first responders" from the surrounding communities.
Church of the Good Shepherd and St. John, Milford: 10:00 A.M. "Eucharist in Remembrance of 9/11" Church bells will be rung 10 times each on the times of the four plane crashes - 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:38am, and 10:03am. After a silent processional the service with continue with special prayers, hymns, and anthem. The church will remain open from 12:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. as a sanctuary for those who wish to observe a reverent silence, hosted by the Daughters of the King.
Trinity Church, Carbondale: 11:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers of the people and remembrances for the victims and their families.
Providence Place Retirement Home, Drums: 1:00 P.M. Members of a Gospel Quartet will lead the hymns, members of the staff and resident will assist with the readings. Lead by Deacon Marion Meiss of St. Peter's, Hazleton
Trinity Church, Easton: 1:30 P.M. organ voluntary followed by the service at 2:00 P.M. An Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope to be webcast live on Sunday, September 11. The service will be streamed live at live.trinityeaston.org. A Service of Remembrance and Hope will include interfaith prayers and hymns. In addition, music will be provided by: a double quartet of members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus of New York City, a local Chamber Orchestra and the Easton Area High School Choir. Scheduled selections will include: Faure's "Requiem in d minor, Op 48" (Intoit and Kyrie; Sanctus; Pie Iesu; Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna; In Paradisum.), Bach's "Cantata 106: Gottes Zeit ist dis Allerbeste Zeit" movement III a & b. Participating congregations include: B'nai Abraham Synagogue, Easton; College Hill Presbyterian Church; 1st Presbyterian Church of Easton; 1st United Church of Christ of Easton; St. John's Lutheran Church of Easton; Temple Covenant of Peace, in Easton; The Muslim Community of Easton/Phillpsburg and Trinity Episcopal Church. Go to www.trinityeaston.org and click on the link to the webcast.. Read more about it, including compatibilities with your computer, smartphone or tablet here. You may also go to Trinity's UShare page, live.trinityeaston.org. For information, call Trinity Church at 610-253-0792
Grace Church, Honesdale: 2:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance for 9/11 Meditation, inter-faith prayers, music and sharing will all be a part of the service as we remember all who were affected by the tragedies, especially within our community. A time to remember those who were killed in New York City, southwestern Pennsylvania and Washington DC will be an important part of the service. Grief counselors will be on hand should anyone need to talk privately. “It is our hope to move forward bringing God’s peace into our community,” commented Ms. Frances Hlavacek of Grace Church who has been a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem’s Peace Commission. The service will be held in the handicap-accessible Parish Hall of Grace Church, located on the corner of Church and Ninth Streets in downtown Honesdale. For more information, you may call the parish office at (570) 253-2760. All are welcome to attend.
Trinity, Mt. Pocono: 2:00 P.M. Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Prayer. Representatives and members of our global community, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh, will gather together to speak about our lives as one in community and to pray together as one for a world of peace and community which can only be gained through the gift of open dialogue as sisters and brothers who seek to move forward beyond the smoke and ashes and offer healing in order to embrace a renewed life together. Please contact the Parish Office at 570 839 9376 for information or go to www.tinitymtpocono.org for directions.
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem: 5:00 P.M. 9/11 Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation, Nativity, Bethlehem 5:00 P.M. Clergy participating are: The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem; The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa, Cathedral Dean & Rector; Rabbi Allen Juda, Congregation Brith Sholom; Metin Bor, Muezzin, Lehigh Dialogue Center; Mohamed Rajmohamed, Al-Ahad Islamic Center; The Rt. Rev. Hopeton Clennon, Bishop of the Moravian Church, Northern Province and Chaplain, Moravian College; The Rev. Canon Mariclair Partee, Cathedral Canon, Ministry of the Baptized; Cantor Ellen Sussman, Temple Shirat Shalom; and The Rev. Canon George Loeffler, Deacon and Bishop's Chaplain. Music provided by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Canon Russell Jackson will present selections from Faure’s Requiem, with Naoko Cauller as soloist. A reception will follow in Sayre Hall, and all are welcome.
St. Paul's, Montrose: 5:00 P.M. Vesper Service to Remember 9/11will be held at the Second Sunday Vesper Service on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Church Street Montrose, PA The solemn service will provide a time of deep spiritual reflection and include scripture readings, prayers, and music prepared especially for the anniversary. The Rev. Canon Charles Cesaretti will welcome the congregation; the greeters are Linda and George Gardner. The Lector will be Amy Johnson. Sarah S. Bertsch will be the organist. MaryAnn DeWitt will be at the piano. A buffet supper will be served immediately following the service in the Parish House. The cooks are Ed and Barbara Schmidt and John and Sharon Siedlecki. Gail and Doug Overfield will be the servers. All are welcome on this special day to remember the victims and those who miss them, as well as the rescue workers and all responders.
Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit: 7:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance with two church joint choir, psalms and prayers
Here is the latest calendar of events for all events we have been made aware of in the Diocese of Bethlehem. If you have an event you want added, please contact Kat Lehman and she will be happy to include your event. Even better! Be your own reporter! Take photos and write a story to go with it and you might find it published here, on the Facebook site, tweeted, on the web or even in Diocesan Life! If you have questions, just let her know.
The latest calendar is in Microsoft Word for easy cut and paste into most newsletters. The one posted here is updated monthly and we post weekly updates to the Facebook page. Check it out!
9/11 Beyond Hate-Resources Odyssey Networks gathers & provides videos, articles and educational materials to help promote dialog within and among faith communities leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Also on Facebook