Here's my submission to the next newsletter that will be ready to read on September 4th.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
I had been a minister with St. David’s for less than a year. I had a two month old baby girl and a three year old toddler at home; my big boy had just turned six and was starting grade one [#4 was a miracle waiting to happen]. For me it was a time of hope and wonder – the future was positive and open.
On that Tuesday morning, I did what I usually did: I waiting until the bell rang at East Elementary School and the kids filed in and then I headed to the church office. The car radio had been off for the drive to school, so I clicked it on to catch the 8:30am news. I was obviously late to the party because all of the commentators were long past explaining what had happened – other than to describe things as ‘scary’ and ‘tragic’.
It was September 11, 2001.
I headed home instead to watch TV (no CNN at the church). My spouse hadn’t seen or heard anything yet either. We learned that just minutes before, World Trade Center One, the north tower, had collapsed to the ground. WTC2 was already down. The Pentagon had been hit as well and no one was sure how many thousands of people were dead and how more planes were on suicide missions.
All of a sudden, it was a different world and it would never be the same. My kids are growing up in a post-9/11 world – where everything and everyone is suspect; where invasive security and pro-active war are commonly accepted as facts of life.
Now at the tenth anniversary of that world-changing day, I sometimes find myself swimming against the stream preaching about community, forgiveness, fairness and authority. I hear the silent caveats: but not everyone, right – not those who hate us or who don’t respect us. Sometimes these voices are in my own head.
During this month of September, I am planning sermons that I hope will allow us to confront the challenges of community, forgiveness, fairness and authority. These themes come straight out of the pre-determined lectionary readings. In fact, for September 11th (which is a Sunday), the Gospel reading has Jesus’ disciples asking him “how many times should I forgive someone?” Is there room for any forgiveness on 9/11?
Over the past two years, I have taken some study leave time in eastern North America. This has given me the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in NYC on two occasssions. Both times I have visited Ground Zero. Even over the course of 13 months between visits, I have witnessed progress in the building, particularly of the memorial area. And this overwhelmed me with a sense of closure and hope that I was not expecting.
I know that most people figured things would be further along after ten years and not everyone is happy with the ultimate designs, but I (for one) love the descending fountains right in the footprints of the Twin Towers (see artist’s rendition below). It reminds me of the falling towers, but also of the flow of life. On Sunday, September 11, we will share in the celebration of Baptism. I was tempted to not have the sacrament on the anniversary of 9/11, but the flowing waters of the memorial in NYC inspired me to hold on to what is good and hopeful and life-giving. On that Sunday, the same day the 9/11 Memorial will officially open in lower Manhattan, I plan for us to sing “Like a Healing Stream” as our opening hymn.
I would love that to be our theme for the different world that starts today!