September 11th

peace 9 11 sculpture

9/11 sculpture

The sculpture consists of an iron beam pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center held up by two stainless steel hands. The hands holding it up are constructed from 2,976 individually crafted stainless steel doves – each representing a victim of the attacks.

All these years since 9/11 –
what is worth remembering?
How fragile we are.
How deeply we need each other.
How little our differences matter.
That in our vulnerability
we are most human.
That we can always respond to violence
with violence or with peace.
That violence begets violence.
That in danger, chaos and trauma
we can choose to come together.
That you always have a choice
to contribute to the world’s hurt
or its healing.
That we are one.
That entering into the world’s suffering
is divine.
That the world is not ending yet.
How beautiful it is
when we care for each other.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Litany for 9/11
God, we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
We know that you remember them too, and are keeping them in your care.
We acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence in our world:
Sometimes it explodes with intent to kill
And has its success, as on 9/11.
And sometimes it creeps in subtly:
In attitudes and mindsets, in worldviews and passing words.
We find it even here in our own hearts.
Cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and restore us to justice.
We rely upon your mercy.
Grant that we may forgive those who have committed atrocities against us
And remember them also to your merciful love.
We hear your words to us: “Do not resist an evil person;” (1)
We are baffled and astonished at this instruction.
We have no paradigm for understanding a peaceable kingdom,
Other than your example.
Console us in our grief, Oh Lovely One.
Speak to us in our confusion.
Guide our feet on the path of peace. (2)
Be to us a light in darkness,
A lamp of peace drawing us lovingly in. Amen
(1) Matthew 5:39
(2) Luke 1: 78-79
(Source: Fran Pratt, Godspace)

Many have cited Biblical passages and verses that seem to explain 9/11, the Boxing Day tsunami etc as God’s judgement. Always wise to read some informed commentary about the Proverbs passage before embarking on the preaching project. Came across the following that seems pertinent:
Jerry Falwell said that the reason that September 11th happened, the reason that God allowed it to happen, was because of certain people in our country. People like, and I’m quoting, ‘the pagans,’ which is a motorcycle group. Feminists; he brought up feminists. […] And I couldn’t believe it, he said that God had actually talked to him and said, these were the people. That was the reason. It was those people, and that was the reason God allowed this to happen. And I thought, ‘That’s odd.’ Because God had called me twelve hours before, and He said the reason He was upset was because of people like Jerry Falwell.” ― Lewis Black

Textweek resources for September 11 anniversary.

In 2012, Pilgrim UC held a ‘spiritual exploration of lament’ on September 11th, for the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. The online planning can be found here, and will take the form of stations around the church. Here’s a link to Geoff Boyce’s website which gives more details of the service of lament.

Blessing/benediction incorporating Jewish blessing of the mourners and Sufi blessing of peace and love. blessing – Sept 11 service

Engage Worship website with prayer resources for Sept 11, and more here at Godspace.

Here’s a thoughtful reflection on the gospel reading linked to 9-11,

Here’s some more resources from United Church of Christ (USA).

Thom Shuman wrote an excellent reflection piece on September 11th. ‘We can remember and honour 9/11.   I hope we are defined by September 12th’. I’ve adapted it for my own context in Australia, but hopefully remaining faithful to the intent of what Thom has written. Thom Shuman reflection

William Willamon reflections on 9-11: Will Willamon on 9-11

A note re children – the TV images will be relentless in the week leading up to 9/11. Young children do not know it’s the same image over and over again, and may well think it’s happening here and now. The violence and destruction carried in the visual images is disturbing to children so extreme care should be taken in what children view on news and current affairs programs leading up to September 11th anniversary.

Interfaith matters – with rising hostilities reported around the world, the terrorist attacks in many countries including France, Germany, and Indonesia, the controversy over the ‘burkina’, the denigration of Muslim people, etc, it’s timely for the church to exercise leadership in promoting peace and understanding, and standing in solidarity with other faith traditions. How might we be ‘practitioners for peace’? There are so many heartwarming and inspiring stories of faith traditions working together – maybe some of those may be woven into worship?

Who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults (Psalm 19.12)
September 11 is not a bad day to think about the hurt we cause. Last night our church hosted the synagogue’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, attended by several other churches as well. We talked about racism. I was talking to the group about the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, and said something about “the Jews” in a way that sounded like “you people,” and it felt hurtful to some of the Jewish people. The rabbi felt it, too, and took me aside and called me on it. I suggested that we have our conversation in public, for everyone to hear. So we did. I had to acknowledge what I had said and the impact it had had. Because impact trumps intent. It doesn’t matter that “I didn’t mean it that way.” It felt the way it felt. Our relationship meant more than the point I was making. I had to take responsibility for that. I had to re-state my point, but more importantly, I had to heal the relationship.
But. It wasn’t completed. We had the conversation, and the rabbi and I hugged, and we moved on – but something was missing. I realized afterward I never actually said the words “I’m sorry.” I didn’t stop and tend to their hearts. I failed at the very thing we were trying to teach: to take responsibility to heal what is wounded, wherever we can.
That my failure, or at least half-success, bothers me, is probably more helpful than had I “done it right” – or even not made the mistake in the first place. It humbles me, and keeps me from thinking I’m the “good guy” who doesn’t need to learn. It motivates me to be more ready next time to set aside my agenda and be ready to see where I have hurt others, and enter into the vulnerability of saying I am sorry, and ask forgiveness.
None of us will always be perfect. The call is to be open, to assume we have hidden faults, and to be ready to atone—not to defend ourselves, not to “get it right,” but to tend to the relationship, to heal what is wounded wherever we can. That it feels unfinished as as it should be: it is. Be open. Be ready.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

(A reflection based on Matthew 10:26-39, in the context of September 11)
Jesus doesn’t mince words. It might not be pretty, he says. It could be dangerous. People aren’t going to like you everywhere you go. You’ll not be popular with the most powerful people, who tend not to like it when you say that their power is not absolute. But here’s the most important part of the instruction: don’t be afraid. He says it multiple times, that litany of “fear not” we hear repeated again and again throughout scripture. Those words often spoken by angels, sometime by God’s own self, when things are about to get epic.

Fear is a tricky thing. In a pinch, it can get us out of a life-or-death situation. If you’re being chased by a bear? That surge of adrenaline makes you run faster. It’s a wonder of evolution. But if we hang on to fear too long, we literally never move at all. It becomes our default position; and our body and our brain start to have a hard time distinguishing that bear from a person who just looks different than us.

September 11 – that dark anniversary we observe again this week – makes us recall how the fear of that day was so palpable. Everything was chaos, and nobody knew what to believe or who to trust … people in New York and D.C. were literally running for their lives. That was understandable, in that moment. “Fight or flight” helps us survive disaster. Running is good.

But in the days after, people began to cling that fear as the new status quo. That fear of the unknown became fear of the other—fear of the Muslim, fear of the immigrant, fear of anyone with dark skin and a head covering.

Political opportunists amped up that fear. They leveraged it into very effective rhetoric that would solidify their own power, perpetuate misunderstanding, and further marginalize those whose looks or lineage made them stand out … Fear became, not a survival instinct, but a daily mode of operation.

In many ways, that fear is what moved us towards the current political climate that we struggle against today. Politicians promiss to protect us from that vague and villainous “other,” however fabricated those threats might be. When people are already afraid, and need someone to be afraid OF, you can easily run entire campaigns on Build that wall!

The impulse to fear may be normal. But for disciples, our call is to resist – not just the powers that tell us to be afraid, but the impulse to fear itself … We are called to rise above basic fear and transform the reality of our narrative into some kind of new life.

Jesus sends the disciples out into the world’s economy of fear and scarcity; he arms them with good words, he tells them not to be afraid; he tells them they are bringing “Not peace but a sword.” I find this one of the most difficult passages in scripture, because we know Jesus to be a subversive force of radical nonviolence. And yet, he’s talking about weapons.

It’s because he knows that their message will be perceived as a weapon. He knows that powerful people will react violently to a gospel that seeks to uproot the world’s power structures. The message they bring will unsettle everything: from the economy to the government, to organized religion and the family system itself. And it’s not always popular to be the voice of resistance; the voice that says there’s enough room at the table, there’s enough room for the stranger and alien; the voice that says our greatest threat is the people who keep us small and afraid. He knows this good news will be deeply divisive in circles where people like to rely on their own strength. Their words, and their radical witness to God’s universal love, will subvert status quos, and make them terribly unpopular with powerful people.

And, as we all know – the real powers of darkness often take on human form.

Into that mission field, Jesus sends not one, not two, not five disciples; but 12. Not individuals but a body. A full force of power and witness. Because if you’re going to fight evil for real–the first thing you do is organize. The first thing you do is assemble.

In our own work for social change, the most effective organizers know this. They know how to assemble the powers of a community—in particular, a marginalized community—to advocate for itself. They know that once you’ve got enough people together working for a common cause, those individuals start to recognize their own power. And you can’t make them afraid.

There many kinds of resistance. Watch for it. Learn from it. See where people are organizing; standing up for the vulnerable; or giving up something that hurts a little … even if it’s just a measure of their own comfort and safety.
(adapted from an article by Erin Wathen, originally published on Patheos)

9/11 Is Still With Us Everyday—but How?
(adapted from an article on Patheos by Paul Louis Metzger)
As I reflect upon the current cultural trauma politically and socially, I cannot help but wonder how much the extremely traumatic events of 9/11 have shaped America and the world for the long-haul.
“…It might be somewhat obvious that people directly exposed to a collective trauma like 9/11 might suffer from associated physical and mental health problems. What is less obvious is how people geographically distant from the epicenter or ‘Ground Zero’ might have been impacted.
This is particularly relevant when considering the impact of 9/11 on children and youth across America: Many reside far from the location of the actual attacks and were too young to have experienced or seen the attacks as they occurred. The point is people can experience collective trauma solely through the media and report symptoms that resemble those typically associated with direct trauma exposure.”
“The events of 9/11 ushered in a new era of media coverage of collective trauma, where terrorism and other forms of large-scale violence are transmitted into the daily lives of children and Americans families.”
“However, some researchers believe that even media-based exposure to collective trauma could likely have a longer-term impact on the attitudes and beliefs of those who grew up in a post-9/11 world. It is possible, for example, that exposure to 9/11 and other acts of terrorism has led to fears of perceived threats, political intolerance, prejudice and xenophobia in some American children.”
“So, people should stay informed, but limit repeated exposure to disturbing images, which can elicit post-traumatic stress and lead to negative psychological and physical health outcomes.”
(quotes from “How the Pain of 9/11 Still Stays with a Generation”, written and published at The Conversation on 9/9/16 by Dana Rose Garfin, Research Scientist, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California)
I still remember where I was when I first witnessed the horror of 9/11. I had just walked into the office building where I worked. Someone had placed a television in the entryway so that all who entered there could witness the horror of the planes hitting New York City’s Twin Towers – over and over again. I will never forget that broadcast image. Repeated media exposure can make it seem like we were there. Ongoing exposure can make it seem like it is about to happen right where we stand – over and over again.

While not ignoring or discounting pain, suffering and tragic events, it is important that we broadcast images of hope and resilience over and over again. Along these lines, we need to recall the heroic actions of those who stepped into the fray on 9/11 in the attempt to rescue the injured—police, firefighters, and common citizens of all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds. We also need to consider how people are trying to rebound from the devastation that overtook their lives. We must increase exposure to symbols and signs of hope and resilience in the face of 9/11 and other traumatic experiences in life. There is no question that 9/11 is still with us. The real question is “How?”

Certainly, we must seek to be well-informed and discerning in the post-9/11 world in which we live politically and culturally. We must certainly be on guard against truly suspicious behavior , fight injustice wherever it is found, and promote safety. Still, as noted in the article, “exposure to 9/11 and other acts of terrorism has led to fears of perceived threats, political intolerance, prejudice and xenophobia in some American children.” No doubt, the same is true for those of us who are adults. Such collective trauma traits poison a society. So, how might we proceed?

As in the case of those who regardless of their political and religious affiliations stepped into the fray to care for the injured, we need to step into the fray to care for one another, regardless of our political, religious and cultural affiliations. We also need to broadcast images of events – wherever they are found – of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Police and Ethnic minorities, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Atheists, long-standing citizens, recent immigrants and refugees, coming together to care for one another.

Sustained reflection on the good must outweigh reflection on the evil. For as the Apostle Paul wrote from a prison cell in Rome, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8; ESV). Otherwise, we will only increase the fear, the prejudice, the intolerance, and xenophobia. If such toxins continue to fill our collective consciousness in our post 9-11 world, the terrorists – who are long gone from that infamous day except in our memories – will have won.


When hands reach out beyond divides
Keri Wehlander is an author, hymn lyricist, liturgical dancer and leader of retreats and workshops. Spirituality and the arts provide a primary focus for her work in various settings in both her native Canada and the U.S. The lyrics for this hymn reflect unity, peace and love. 
When hands reach out beyond divides and hope is truly found,
Each chain of hate will fall away and bells of peace shall sound.

When fear no longer guides our steps and days of war are done,
God’s dream for all shall live anew; our hearts will heal as one.

When race and creed blind us no more, a neighbour’s face we’ll see,
And we shall dance the whole world round, for love will set us free.”

The tune, SALEM, is from the 1854 edition of Southern Harmony.

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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