A 9-11 Message from the Bishop

A 9-11 Message from the Bishop

Dear People of God:

Grace and peace to you.

As our nation, and our various communities prepare for a variety of public observances of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we Christians need to be preparing ourselves personally as well.

Part of our preparation is in asking ourselves what Archbishop Rowan Williams asked himself and us soon after 9/11: “What are we prepared to learn from this?” (You will recall that he was at Trinity, Wall Street on that day. His book, Writing in the Dust, is a very fine theological reflection on that event.)

Part is the work of being more knowledgeable about Islam and more effective in fighting prejudice against Muslims wherever we encounter it. Some of our most important allies in building a peaceful world are the multitude of faithful Muslims who deplore the actions of those hateful extremists who wrap their violence in religion—any religion. We must work with such allies to oppose the intolerance of fundamentalism and ideological rigidity wherever possible.

Part is remembering. There is the work of prayerfully recalling the powerful images and emotions of that day, and the days and weeks that followed. A few months after 9/11, we brought some of the staff from St. Paul’s Chapel to this diocese for a clergy retreat. Two of them had been with Rowan Williams on September 11, 2001; they shared how they had fully expected to die together with him that day. Another was the vicar, the man to turn the key to St. Paul’s and open the door and experience the “miracle of 9/12” — which was not only the astounding fact that that historic building immediately adjacent to Ground Zero was undamaged (except for a single broken chandelier), but all the ways in which it became both a place of refuge and a base for mission to the community of workers and mourners there for many months thereafter.

Eucharistic Christians know that there is more to remembering than a function of memory. Memory works to form us; that is why it is important to frame powerful recollections with prayer. When we “do this in remembrance,” we are doing anamnesis, entering into the deeper spiritual reality of historical events. We engage in that reality in a way that changes how we are in the present, and reorients us towards the future. Anamnesis is literally to “stop forgetting,” to begin again to see things as they truly are, and to be who we truly are. Thus, when Christians see the frequent 9/11 commemoration admonition to “never forget,” it is a reminder to us that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and that it is our job to bring His Gospel into this and every occasion, and to renew our commitment to live as His disciples.

Our Presiding Bishop has invited us to make this anniversary an occasion for reflection, and for becoming more effective reconcilers and peace-makers. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us all in doing just such work—which is really the work of becoming who we are in Christ.  With God’s help, may we more faithfully resist evil, respect the dignity of every human being, and strive for justice and peace.

Yours in Christ,




Click here to view what our congregations are doing to honor the anniversary of 9-11

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