September 11th, 2001
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Here are some thoughts which you might find helpful in planning an act of worship in response to the terrible events in New York, Washington and West Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001.
Today, a disaster happens...
Quickly it is yesterday...
But it shapes our tomorrow.
- Music is important on these occasions.
Use it creatively -
quietly listening to suitable music can help work through feelings which are confused and tangled in different emotions;
if hymns are sung in your school, this can be used to help put feelings into words and, by singing together, build a sense of togetherness when we try to make some sense of our feelings.
- Immediately after a disaster it's as well to avoid attempts to explain in detail what
happened and why - it's usually better to leave sufficient time and 'distance' from the
It is important not to avoid the 'hard' questions; but it's equally important to allow time to prepare the 'hard' answers those questions deserve.
- Use a 'focus' - such as a cross / crucifix; a lighted candle, flowers or a picture (large enough to be seen by everyone) - use this as a symbol to take our thinking beyond the tragic event.
- Three areas might be touched on in worship are:
There is a place for 'righteous' anger.
God does not condone or bless any act of evil. (Romans 12:19)
We also feel angry about wrong and injustice, but Christians believe that God is the final judge.
Events such as those of yesterday do nothing to build the sort of world God wants His creation to be.
Bible verses which may be helpful include:
Psalm 1: 1-2
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers
But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.
[when Jesus likened himself to a vine and us to his branches]
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not remain in me he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
This prayer may also be helpful:
But I weep not for myself.
I am but one
of hundreds of thousands
who have suffered so.
Our pain will end.
No, I weep not for myself,
But for those who do not yet know
That the pain they create
Does not destroy humanity
('Burma Issues Staff, Thailand - ' from Seeing Christ in Others, Geoffrey Duncan, pub Canterbury Press ISBN: 1-85311-192-9)
When there is a disaster or tragedy we want to know who is responsible (and who is to blame)?
Rather than blaming 'God' for all that goes wrong emphasise that God wants us to share our feelings with him - not only our happiness and joy but also our sadness, our anger and our questioning.
Psalm 139 begins:
O Lord you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 143: 1-4; 11-12 may also be helpful.
Rather than simply 'pointing a finger' of blame try also to remember with compassion those who are responsible for evil, such as the outrages in New York and Washington.
Reflect on the destructive power working on the lives of people who are so consumed by hatred that they don't mind who gets hurt or killed as they try to get their own way.
This prayer may be helpful:
Show us, good Lord,
How to be frugal, till all are fed;
How to weep, till all can laugh;
How to be meek, till all can stand in pride;
How to mourn, till all are comforted;
How to be restless, till all live in peace;
How to claim less, till all find justice.
(From An Iona Prayer Book, by Peter Millar pub. Canterbury Press, ISBN 1-85311-205-4)
Use thoughts and images of Love and reconciliation as the only way to break out of the cycles of violence and terrorism and make them the pathways to a world which we can all share in peace.
As well as remembering the dead, those who have lost loved ones - parents, children and other family members - remember too those who are involved in rescue and bringing help (and the effect this work has on their lives).
Remember too, to reflect on why we should not give up on our values of love, care and compassion and of searching for peace - for when we do the terrorist has won.
Confronting death is never easy but it is important to do so, to share in that search for meaning and understanding in death as well as in life and to look towards what is 'life' after 'death'.
These words may be helpful:
Be open to the night...
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist...
(Lord Dunsany, from The Lion Prayer Collection, Mary Batchelor, pub. Lion ISBN 0-745-93133-2)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy
(Attributed to Francis of Assisi)
The Harrowing of Hell
Love asks to penetrate
The hot dark place,
The place of pain,
From which the sons of light
Hide their modest faces.
Love is allowed.
And oh! What gnashing of teeth
Among the demons who thought it was their own!
(D M Lewis from The Lion Christian Poetry Collection, Mary Batchelor, pub. Lion ISBN 0-745-93724-1)
- These words of John Donne bring home our shared feelings of involvement and of
No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the Continent,
A part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
(John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions  'Meditation XVII')