Bishop Comment on Sept. 11 Fifth Anniversary

ELCA Presiding Bishop,

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,changed the "context" of the church in the United States, and"shattered thousands of lives and galvanized millions more around the country and across the globe," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson,presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The comment was part of his message to the church in anticipation of the upcoming fifth anniversary of the attacks.

The attacks in New York, Arlington, Va., and the crash of aplane controlled by hijackers near Shanksville, in south-central Pennsylvania, killed nearly 3,000 people and left thousands injured.

"In the moments and days following the events of September 11, people responded with prayer and action. Unprecedented numbers of people gathered to pray, to express anguish, and to receive consolation from one another and from the Word of God, "Hanson wrote. He quoted the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, who wrote: "For a brief time our houses of worship were the most important places in the community, and the Bible was a living document of drama encompassing our own."

Hanson noted that faith leaders provided places for people to meet, to grieve and to attend to immediate needs. Sorrow and compassion were offered across ecumenical and interfaith lines,and the world reached out to people suffering in the United States, Hanson said in his letter.

"Five years later the wounds from that day remain just under the surface for many whose lives were devastated -- those still grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a way of life, or a loss of trust in God," Hanson wrote.

"Terrorism is intended to create fear and mistrust. If our reality is shrouded in fear and mistrust, we have not fully heard the story of God's love expressed through Jesus' death and resurrection," Hanson wrote. He referred to the ELCA Church Council's "Message on Living in a Time of Terrorism," which says we are called to "affirm the Gospel's gift of living beyond fear."

Hanson expressed thanks for the many ways Lutherans responded to the Sept. 11 attacks, including gifts and matching funds totaling more than $10.6 million donated to ELCA Domestic Disaster Response. Funds were used in a variety of ways in New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Shanksville, the presiding bishop said. He also thanked Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for its work for immigrants and others "who are suspect simply by virtue of their ethnicity or religion," Hanson wrote.

"In a culture that says, 'Get over it,' we as faith leaders have an opportunity to create safe spaces for people to tell their stories, to express their fears and their pain, and to be reminded of God's presence in times of trouble," he wrote. "With deep gratitude, I give thanks to God for the witness of this church."Synod bishop says Sept. 11 "wounded our metropolis and challenged our ministry"

In a message to the Metropolitan New York Synod, the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop, said the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "changed our world, wounded our metropolis and challenged our ministry."

"I remember how important it was for us to be in touch with each other, to share information, to begin planning together our collective response, to be near one another in consolation. I remember an overwhelming longing among all of us to come together publicly for prayer, shared lamentation, and the presence of our leadership," Bouman wrote.

Bouman recalled that about 10 days after the attacks, national church leaders, ELCA synod bishops, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod district presidents, pastors and lay leaders met at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan. "I remember walking into the sanctuary, still dazed from our visit to Ground Zero,"he wrote. "I remember how the presence of all of you in that church moved me to tears and to silence."

That experience at Holy Trinity became "part of our shared spiritual landscape," Bouman wrote, adding that the gathering transformed the leaders from "isolated servants of the gospel to a communal servanthood."

"We were transformed because we met God in our mutual prayer, song, embrace, reflection. For me, the transforming moment when fear began to turn toward faith, when despair became tinged with hope, was when we sang together 'My Lord What a Mourning.'" he wrote.

"Five years after September 11 the world cries out for transformation and healing," Bouman continued. "May the life of our synod continue to join the risen Lord in our transforming work."---

The full text of the Rev. Mark S. Hanson's Sept. 11 statement is at http://www.ELCA.org/bishop/m_060901.html on the ELCA Web site.

The full text of the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman's Sept. 11 statement is at http://www.mnys.org/headlines/Bishop_911_commemoration%20.html on the Web.

The ELCA Church Council's "Message on Living in a Time of Terrorism"is at http://www.ELCA.org/socialstatements/terrorism/ on the ELCA Web site.

A variety of worship and prayer resources for Sept. 11 observances is at http://www.ELCA.org/disaster/resources/06-08-25-sept11.asp on the ELCA Web site.


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