Church’s interfaith 9/11 Service Draws a Crowd

Bryn Mawr church’s interfaith 9/11 service draws a crowd


By Anne Minicozzi

View and purchase photos
“And God will raise you up on eagles’ wings,

Bear you on the breath of dawn,

Make you to shine like the sun

And hold you in the palm of his hand.”

– From “On Eagles’ Wings”; lyrics by Michael Joncas

There were a significant number of events held along the Main Line last Sunday to remember the 10th anniversary of the attacks that occurred in our country on Sept. 11, 2001. In Bryn Mawr, people of many ages and faiths packed the cushioned pews of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Pennswood Road. Their pastor, the Rev. David Tatgenhorst, expressed his gratefulness and also his surprise when he saw how many attendees made their way to the event, described in the event poster as “A Community Comes Together: A Multi-faith Commemoration of September 11th.”

In addition to St. Luke’s, other faith communities who co-sponsored the event were: Bahá’í Community of the Main Line, Beth Am Israel, the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Church of the Redeemer, Gladwyne Presbyterian Church, Har Zion Temple, the Foundation for Islamic Education, Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim, the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia, Narberth Havurah and Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish.

The event was presented touching on five themes: remembrance, compassion, hope, healing and reconciliation. St. Luke’s organist/choir director Clyde Shive Jr. and flautist Raymond Brebach led the first portion of the event, “Music for Meditation and Prayer.” Five musical selections were performed. On two large screens that flank the altar, an image was presented as well for consideration. During “Andante” from Sonata No. 5 in G by J.S. Bach, an image of a rear-view mirror with the words “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear” showed in its reflection a child’s hand with the word “Hope” written in the palm.

During the second part of the event, the multi-faith service, Assistant Rabbi Michael Knopf from Har Zion Temple and Iftekhar Hussain from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented prayers and sacred readings in their original languages, and then English translations were given. Cantor Marshall Portnoy from Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim sang a cappella in Hebrew the “Prayer for the Dead.” There were a number of opportunities for participating in responsorial prayers, each concluding with attendees of all the different faiths joining in the one concluding word: “Amen.”

There was the opportunity during one prayer for attendees to pray silently for someone who was lost on 9/11/01, or one could choose to say that person’s name aloud. For each name offered, Tatgenhorst lit a candle.

“Blessed are those who have no one to name them,” he said when this portion of the service was concluded. Later attendees who wished to do so were invited to light their own candles in remembrance of a loved one lost.

A large number of participants from across the entire group of sponsoring faith communities gathered on the altar midway in the service. Led by Portnoy they sang a moving rendition of “On Eagles’ Wings,” with some attendees joining in, following the lyrics projected on the screens.

Representatives from all the sponsoring faith communities each participated at one or more points in the service. It is interesting to observe that many more people than Tatgenhorst expected turned up at this special and meaningful event. It shows there was a need for a place for people of all faith communities to gather. Even 10 years later the unity experienced at this service reminded one of the unity that was experienced by all in the nation during those first fatal hours and days, those hours and days when so many dropped everything and ran to save those who needed help most. The unity perhaps is something we need to continue to remember, something we continue to take from the ashes and now the memory of the ashes of that tragic day.
As we continue to reflect on 9/11 and how each of us marked the event in different ways 10 years later, it seems important to note that if so many people, so many different people from a variety of faith communities, sought to be with each other to meditate and to pray, sought such unity, perhaps hope indeed is closer than it sometimes appears.  ARTICLE SOURCE