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Church leaders point to worship resources for 9/11 remembrances

Tenth anniversary of the attacks will fall on a Sunday

August 22, 2011

Louisville

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaches, church leaders reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

In a letter to “all who minister in the name of Jesus Christ in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” elder Cindy Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010), Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, equate the attacks with those “that define a generation.”

They write, “The shock of these events has seared that day in memory. The subsequent wars that resulted in the loss of more lives have shaped our realities in ways that have defined a generation and contributed to the difficulties we face today.”

They continue, “Through it all, the church has stood as a witness to the resurrection hope of Jesus Christ,” offering comfort and hope and questioning “social policies that unjustly demonize a group of people because of the violence of a few radicals.”

“In short,” they write,  “you have been good and faithful servants.”

In looking forward to September 11, 2011, which will fall on a Sunday, the leaders encourage those who minister to “plan your own way of remembering” while “reflect[ing] theologically on what has happened and why.”

“This is what people most desperately want to know, and they expect to hear it from us: Where is God? Then ask the question that is also ever before us: How can we be where Christ is redeeming the brokenness with both forgiveness and a call for justice?”

Bolbach, Parsons, and Valentine point to worship resources that were developed by General Assembly Mission Council staff and may be helpful to worship planners.

They write, “We encourage you to remember, not to dwell in the past, but to remember in the way in which we look into a rear-view mirror in our car even as we move forward confidently.”

The full text of the letter:

To all who minister in the name of Jesus Christ in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

There are events that define a generation, like Pearl Harbor, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech during the march on Washington, or the death of John F. Kennedy. 

We remember where we were when we first heard the news of September 11, 2001, news that just kept coming with first one plane crashing into the World Trade Center, then another, then another into the Pentagon, then another in a field in Pennsylvania. The shock of these events has seared that day in memory. The subsequent wars that have resulted in the loss of more lives have shaped our realities in ways that have defined a generation and contributed to the difficulties we face today.

Through it all, the church has stood as a witness to the resurrection hope of Jesus Christ. You have offered solace in ministries of comfort to the traumatized. You have intoned hope in prayer and worship, even in the midst of lament. And you have questioned social policies that unjustly demonize a group of people because of the violence of a few radicals. In short, you have been good and faithful servants.

All over the country plans are being made now to commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11, which will occur on a Sunday. We encourage you to plan your own way of remembering. Use this time to reflect theologically on what has happened and why. Where is God? This is what people most desperately want to know, and they expect to hear it from us:  Where is God? Then ask the question that is also ever before us: How can we be where Christ is redeeming the brokenness with both forgiveness and a call for justice? This is our task as ministers of the gospel, both ordained and non-ordained—standing as witnesses for Christ in our time.

We encourage you to remember, not to dwell in the past, but to remember in the way in which we look into a rear-view mirror in our car even as we move forward confidently. To that end, you may find resources on the web helpful at www.pcusa.org/september11. Even as you remember, though, remember, too, that “our God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and discerning self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

You continue in our prayers, and we ask yours. May the same Spirit that was in Christ Jesus be in and among you now and forevermore.

In Christ’s peace,

Cynthia Bolbach
Moderator, 219th General Assembly (2010)

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Linda Valentine
Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Council

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