By Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care
It occurs to me that some of you reading this do not have a personal memory of September 11, 2001, and the events known as 9/11. You may not have been born yet or were too young to have memories of that fateful day. Suffice to say that the attacks on our soil were horrific and heartbreaking. In retrospect they were devastating beyond the loss of life, stripping away a certain impenetrability that we on our continent had assumed.
Susan and I were serving in the same parish at that time, getting ready to go to the office to start our day. I will never forget that plane exploding into the second tower and the realization that what we were witnessing was no accident. We were stunned, confused, as was everyone. Then, urgently to the office to talk security, at that point everyone feared for other soft targets across the nation.
Security was our first, instinctual thought. Our second was prayer. People would need to – we needed to – turn to God for comfort, safety, guidance. That proved to be a correct assumption as the church phone rang off the wall. We called our neighboring churches and they accepted our invitation. Lay leaders called in to volunteer. By evening Susan had organized a somber ecumenical prayer vigil and the church was full of scared people who needed to hear that God never abandons us no matter how terrible the moment.
For me, one of the saddest aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have struggled to pray, to mourn, to cry together. The reasons are clear. The severity of the pandemic snuck up on us, we underestimated its threat to human life and the national economy, and still there is no end in sight. We cannot be physically together; our instinct is to huddle which is exactly the wrong thing to do from a health and science perspective. The politicization of the pandemic has paralyzed us. And denial. Again, our invincibility has been shattered and, as with 9/11, we have only begun to accept our personal and social vulnerability.
We have prayed, of course. Pastoral prayers, the Daily Prayer Line, columns and blogs, devout personal intercessions. But not like when President Kennedy or Dr. King were assassinated or during the Vietnam War or the AIDS epidemic or mass shootings or countless other tragedies that brought us together as a people.
This coming Wednesday, October 28, at 7:00 p.m. we will be live, on-line at cccckc.org for A Service of Remembering: All Saints 2020. About a dozen of us will be in our church to lead prayer and sing and reflect. We will remember all of our beloved dead and pray for their families. We will pray for those who have lost their jobs or businesses. We will lift up all those who are struggling with isolation or school or other challenges. It won’t be like being together physically. But in that it will be live, when you join us on-line, we will be united in the Holy Spirit which transcends time and space. Across the miles we will pray and mourn and then rise up to be agents of hope and healing in our community trusting that, as in past crises, God will bring us through this pandemic to a better day.