United Methodists Will Mark September 11 in Variety of Ways

By Linda Green

September 11, 2001. Everyone knows the date. Nine eleven. Nine one one. A day that left an indelible mark on America's psyche. A day of horror, fear, anger, sorrow.

As the anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches, United Methodists across the country and around the world are planning to commemorate the day in a variety of ways.

"Sept. 11 memorial services will set the anniversary remembrance in the context of faith -- the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus," says the Rev. James McGraw, pastor of John Street United Methodist Church in lower Manhattan. "This will be a eucharistic remembrance of the lives lost, sacrifices made and hope still present in our faith in Christ Jesus."

This summer, United Methodist bishops encouraged congregations to set aside Sunday, Sept. 8, as a day of remembrance, and proclaimed September "United Methodist Open House Month." The request for the bishops' actions came from Igniting Ministry staff at United Methodist Communications, which established Open House Month in 2001 to coincide with the debut of the denomination's TV advertising effort. A church TV spot called "Amen," prepared in remembrance of the tragedy, will air twice on NBC's "The Today Show" on Sept. 11.

The denomination's Web site, www.umc.org, unveiled a new feature called "Remembering 9/11" on Aug. 12. The site honors the lives lost on Sept. 11, and celebrates the volunteers and ministries that reached out to those in need. It will feature reflections from people directly affected by the tragedies, and United Methodists will share written and video accounts of how their personal faith journeys have changed.

Interpreter magazine, the official journal of the denomination, has provided a list of United Methodist resources addressing the complexity of the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath. At the request of the church's Council of Bishops, the magazine created the guide to assist United Methodists in planning services and continuing responses to the tragedy.

Church services

Many congregations will offer their facilities as community gathering places to remember the terrorist attacks and to pray for wisdom, comfort, healing, peace and recovery. The United Methodist Board of Discipleship has developed services of remembrance, prayer resources, and hymns and music for commemorating Sept. 11. All are available at www.gbod.org/worship/ default.asp.

Near Ground Zero, John Street United Methodist Church will host the New York Annual Conference's remembrance service on Sept. 11. The church, two blocks from the former World Trade Center towers, will also be recognized for its role in the recovery efforts. The building was covered in soot and dust after the towers fell. In the days and weeks that followed the attacks, the Rev. James R. McGraw, pastor, offered petitions to God from the altar. Those petitions have been published in a book, Prayers From Ground Zero.

During the recent New York Annual Conference session, members received packets of seeds to take home and plant, in keeping with the "Plant It Forward" theme. The flowers or plants grown from the seeds will be placed on the altar of a church on Sept. 8 in commemoration.

In Pennsylvania, a memorial service will be held at the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed. Passengers on the flight had rushed the hijackers who were in control of the plane -- an act that is believed to have pre-empted a second attack on Washington. Somerset County officials will conduct the service in honor of the 40 passengers and crewmembers that died. The service, planned for the anniversary, will be conducted near the crash site in rural Stonycreek Township. A makeshift memorial there has attracted visitors from around the world.

"By formal request of the Flight 93 families, the memorial service program will be a simple, solemn ceremony," said Susan Hankinson, Somerset County Flight 93 coordinator. "People here and across the county believe the first battle in the war against terrorism was won in the skies over Stonycreek Township."

During the service, a bell of remembrance will be rung, and similar bells will be sounded at crash sites in Arlington, Va., and New York City at 10-second intervals in memory of each person who died at those locations.

In Washington, Bishop Felton Edwin May will preach at a special Sept. 11 evening service at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church. As the national church of American Methodism, established in 1852 by General Conference, Metropolitan is inviting all the United Methodist members of Congress as well as representatives of the Pentagon to participate. The church will also have an all-day prayer vigil.

The Virginia Annual Conference's Alexandria and Arlington districts, which have many residents who work at the Pentagon and other military facilities, will host an all-day event on Sept. 7 called "Seeds of Remembrance: Planting A Garden of Hope" at Camp Highroad, a church camp in Middleburg, Va. Bible study and other activities for all ages are planned. Workshops will address how to deal with fear as well as how to reconcile the Old Testament's sanction of violence and revenge with Jesus' emphasis on peace and love.

Throughout the day, a garden will be created, featuring a flagpole bought with pennies collected from children and a statue made from "violent toys" donated by children.

St. George's United Methodist Church in Fairfax, Va., will conduct a "Service of Remembrance and Honor," which will include a mini-concert of patriotic selections by a local ensemble. The community around the church will be encouraged to attend. Several members of the church were working at the Pentagon when the attacks occurred, but none was seriously injured.

Another church, Messiah United Methodist in Springfield, Va., will present Mozart's "Requiem" to honor those who died, with a concert choir comprising singers from across northern Virginia. And in Roanoke, Cave Spring United Methodist Church will host a "Service of Peace and Ice Cream." With an emphasis on music, the service will focus on peace, Christian love and service to others, followed by an ice-cream social to bring people together in fellowship.

Like many congregations, Shiloh United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, Md., will conduct a remembrance service on Sept. 11, using music, words and images to reflect on the attacks and bring participants closer to God and one another.

PowerPoint slide presentations will be included in a Sept. 15 memorial service at First United Methodist Church in Memphis, Mich. Pictures of the aftermath of the attacks will be shown as the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" plays in the background. A second showing, with the hymn "Amazing Grace" softly playing, will feature the rescue workers who died. Patriotic music, special offerings by members of the congregation and graphics also will be included.

The Paducah District of the Kentucky Annual Conference is planning a circuit of prayer on Sept. 14. The district's 65 churches will be asked to open their sanctuaries that day, and people will be encouraged to pray in a church that is not their own. A laity rally will be held on Sept. 15.

In Louisiana, the churches of the Lake Charles District are planning a citywide service of remembrance and healing on Sept. 11 at the local civic center. Initiated by First United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, the program will be a community event involving church officials, the mayor's office, law enforcement, emergency medical services, the fire department, the military, other churches and the media.

First United Methodist Church in Farmington, N.M., has advertised a community service of thanksgiving and healing on the evening of Sept. 11. This service will recognize how God has already brought healing to the nation and world and single out continued needs for prayer.

A United Methodist in New Mexico raised $1,000 by making origami "peace doves" and sent the money to assist with relief in New York. For the anniversary celebration, she is working on her second thousand and will also send that for relief.

North Scottsdale United Methodist Church in Phoenix has scheduled a Taize-style service for Sept. 8. Central United Methodist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., will offer the community a chance to walk a hand-painted labyrinth during a special Sept. 11 service. In addition to using a special liturgy on Sept. 8, St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, will hold a service of remembrance on Sept. 11.

Participants in a Sept. 11 healing and wholeness service at Martin United Methodist Church in Bedford, Texas, will celebrate the diversity in the Christian faith community and how it can help America and the world heal.

Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, will have a service beginning at 8:30 a.m. From 8:48 a.m., the time the first plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, to 6:30 p.m., readers will name the dead. From 6:30 to 8 p.m., the church will hold a memorial service.

In Salinas, Calif., clergy from Sacred Heart Catholic Parish, First United Methodist, St. Paul's Episcopal, Northminster Presbyterian and First Baptist churches are planning a community service, and Temple United Methodist Church in San Francisco will conduct a service that will be "in keeping with our biblical traditions" to "pray for those who persecute us."

Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis will use the theme "Fear Not" as it marks the anniversary of the attacks. The tragedy will be a focus during worship services on Sept. 8, and a noon service of remembrance and evening candlelight service on Sept. 11. A Bible lecture series, "Understanding the Crisis in the Middle East," is planned for Sept. 15-17.

Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver will host a citywide memorial service. A rabbi, imam and a Catholic archbishop have been invited to attend.

Common Cup, a cooperative ministry of six United Methodist churches in southeast Portland, Ore., will hold a service of memory and hope for the community on Sept. 11 at Trinity United Methodist Church. An hour before the 7 p.m. service begins, representatives from the Oregon Peace Institute will host a discussion of peace and justice issues. The preceding Sunday, members of each church will be asked to label a small box with a prayer expressing a hope, dream or expectation for the future. These boxes will be brought to the altar, where they will be used in building a "bridge from disaster to the future."

St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Milwaukie, Ore., will recognize people who serve the community and have done "special deeds" during the year at an event called "Celebrating SpecialPeople." The Sept. 11 event will be open to the public and will provide a gathering place to rest, remember and share stories that relate to the community.

Campus events

United Methodists also will remember the day through ecumenical gatherings at church-related schools and elsewhere. One such gathering will be held on an Army base in Germany. Closer to home, the five facilities and corporate offices of the Methodist Healthcare System will conduct memorial services for staff.

Seminaries such as United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology are planning services.

Keene (N.H.) State College will conduct a "Vigil of Remembrance" on Sept. 11, with candles, music and reflections by students and staff. Forums designed to discuss the national response will be held throughout the month.

The campus ministry program at Monmouth (Ill.) College has planned an interfaith service for the campus community and the city. The evening program will include readings from different faiths, and the local United Methodist minister will participate.

The United Methodist campus minister and the Religious Advisers Association at Emporia (Kan.) State University have planned an evening candlelight program for Sept. 11. The focus will be on remembering those lost in the tragedy and understanding cultural differences.

Southern Methodist University in Dallas is planning a 24-hour vigil beginning on Sept. 10, which will culminate with a silent candlelight service and will include an early morning prayer service on Sept. 11 at the flagpole. The school also will have a daylong series of lectures and discussions, and a service-career fair in response to President Bush's call to community service.

Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., is planning a candlelight prayer vigil, and the Wesley Foundation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has scheduled a service of remembrance. Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, will conduct a student-led memorial service on Sept. 11 to remember the people who gave their lives for America.

At Young Harris (Ga.) College, a candlelight service at the campus flagpole will highlight the school's commemoration of Sept. 11. The chapel service will help the school remember the day in song, words and prayers. Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., will hold a memorial service for the community, while Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., is planning a service focusing on the unity that helped the country get through the tragedy.

Emory University in Atlanta is planning a week of events, including a blood drive, a community art project, various volunteer projects, lectures and panel discussions. Sept. 11 activities will begin with a prayer vigil. An evening gathering of student groups and faculty members will feature spoken reflections, dance and song, followed by a community dinner and vigil.

Ohio Northern University in Ada will hold its first chapel service of the academic year on Sept. 11. A service and message to help students, staff and faculty commemorate the day is planned, and those will be broadcast live on the university's cable system. At Paine College in Augusta, Ga., the anniversary will coincide with the fall convocation, and prayers and reflections on the tragedy will be interspersed throughout the event.

At American University in Washington, a morning worship service will be followed by a campus event to remember the alumni who were killed at the Pentagon, World Trade Center and on American Airlines Flight 93. A plaque, bearing the names of the alumni killed, will be dedicated. The school also will host discussions and show movies dealing with issues related to Sept. 11.

Drew University in Madison, N.J., will hold a daylong program that will include an interfaith dialogue and discussion about religious pluralism. Students at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind., will participate in an interfaith, communitywide remembrance on Sept. 11 that will originate from the mayor's office.

Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse (N.Y.) University is hosting a series of events called "One Year Later" Sept. 10-15 to provide reflective learning experiences for students. Chapel officials plan to involve all members of the university community through "satellite" events.

As Sept. 11 approaches, more services will certainly be planned around the denomination. United Methodists can check with their local churches, annual conference offices or church-related schools for events in their areas.

Green is a news writer with United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

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