On this September 11th – a Hymn and a Prayer

Photo by ejpphoto on Flickr

It is hard to believe that is has been 11 years since that surreal morning when the world’s attention was focused on the attack on the United States. Watching the looping images of planes flying into the World Trade Center, the attempts at trying to understand what was happening and the subsequent turmoil that as arguably altered the very nature of politics in the United States, 9/11 must be remembered with care and grace as we continued to deal with the aftermath.

We will never get beyond the politics and rhetoric of our collective 9/11 responses, but there is a time to pause, to remember and to grieve. As one who has been impacted by the tragic death of a family member, the implications on ones life and spirit never go away. Pain may ease, memories wane and emotions temper, but the loss is constant.  With this in mind, I offer up two resources that touched me this morning.

The first is a hymn from hymn writer, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:

O God, Our Words Cannot Express
ST. ANNE ( (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)

O God, our words cannot express
The pain we feel this day.
Enraged, uncertain, we confess
Our need to bow and pray.

We grieve for all who lost their lives…
And for each injured one.
We pray for children, husbands, wives
Whose grief has just begun.

O Lord, we’re called to offer prayer
For all our leaders, too.
May they, amid such great despair,
Be wise in all they do.

We trust your mercy and your grace;
In you we will not fear!
May peace and justice now embrace!
Be with your people here!

Carolyn has published two hymn collections, Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship. You can find hymn notes as well as her other work on her website, www.carolynshymns.com. You can also like her on Facebook.

There are also many meaningful prayers out there for folks to use in worship or for personal devotion. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has 9/11 Worship and Liturgy resources to download as does the National Council of Churches. Here is a prayer offered as part of a 10th anniversary liturgy of remembrance written by Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly, N.J and the Rev. Jon Brown, a Presbyterian minister and Pastor of the Old Bergen Church, Jersey City, N.J.

Unison Prayer

God of all creation, our hearts are broken over the destruction and loss we remember this day. And we acknowledge, O Lord, that on that day of human carnage yours was the first heart to break.

In our remembering, may we stand with those who mourn and those who cannot stop mourning. Through remembering, may we find new comfort in your care. In our remembering may we be drawn to a new hope for the whole world, and may we gain for ourselves a measure of your peace.

You who can turn the shadow of night into the bright promise of a new day, empower us to shape a world marked by ways of life that lead to justice and peace for all peoples. Fashion in us a people who are more ready to grow in understanding than eager to judge those who are different from us. Form us as a people determined to heal wounds rather than inflict them.

We pray at last that you would cultivate such love in us that we may reach out in compassion to all those who are still wounded by the events of that day; and in seeking to heal others, may we experience a love that makes us whole.

This we pray in the strong name of Jesus our Christ. Amen

Please feel free to share other resources, prayers and reflections this day. Again, there is always space for the politics and debate, but on this day, let us simply pause, remember and grieve.

Be the Change: 9/11 Remembrances, The Ribbons of Hope Project and The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

One of my ongoing projects, the “BE THE CHANGE” series highlights people and projects that I encounter during my travels who are doing the hard work of changing the world for the better. Subjects are chosen by me with no committee or proposal process 😉 So if you know of a person or project that you think is doing something that is making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place, please feel free to send me a note or make an introduction.

[Artist Rendering by Bruce Rauffenbart]

With the 10 anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and a country still dealing with the impact of that day: socially, politically and theologically I am honored to feature the good folks at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and The Ribbons of Hope Project in NYC. My hope is that we will continue to do the good work of remembering where we have been, taking a critical look at our activities and world and find ways to build lasting peace.  The Presbyterian Ministry at the UN staff members: Mark Koenig, Director; Ryan Smith, Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations; and Ricky Velez-Negron, administrative assistant.  Good folks all.

And now my “interview” with The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations:

Tell me a little about yourself . . . who are and what is The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations?

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations provides prayers, offers seminars, encourages participation in advocacy campaigns and other concrete acts of global discipleship, and shares educational resources to help Presbyterians (and others) live their faith in the global neighborhood – to “think globally, and act locally.” We  advocate within the UN system for peace and justice guided by policies of the General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This involves meeting with representatives of nation states and UN staff members to share what the church has said on given issues. We advocate with partners in faith-based and secular NGOs.

Structurally speaking, we are a ministry of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry of the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Tell me a little about THE RIBBONS OF HOPE PROJECT and how did you get involved in it?

The Ribbons of Hope Project is an interfaith initiative to mark the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001. Individuals in New York, across the United States, and around the world are invited to write prayers and messages of remembrance and hope on ribbons. The ribbons will be gathered and displayed in Battery Park in New York City on mesh panels over the weekend of September 9 through 11. On September 12, religious leaders of different faiths will dedicate the panels and a permanent location will be found for them.

Any color, length, or style of ribbon may be used. It is suggested that permanent markers be used since the ribbons will be displayed outside.

Several factors play a role in the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations becoming involved with the Ribbons of Hope Project: we are located in New York—it is our community, it is where we act locally; the attacks of September 11 took place in the United States, but were global in impact–more than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks; and the Ribbons of Hope Project is part of an effort to bring people together across our religious diversity.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations recently provided an opportunity to participate in the Ribbons of Hope Project during a worship service we led at the Church Center for the United Nations.

In 10 years, what do you hope people will be saying about THE RIBBONS OF HOPE PROJECT?

Ten years ago, people wrote prayers and hopes and remembrances on ribbons that were collected and displayed in New York City. For ten years, guided by those remembrances, people have tried to bring those prayers into reality and to live into those hopes.

How can people get connected to and support THE RIBBONS OF HOPE PROJECT?

They can learn more at The Ribbons of Hope Project Website.

They can make ribbons and send them to Intersections International, 274 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001. Be sure they arrive at Intersections by September 8th. Include your name and contact information, the name of your organization and any interesting story about making your ribbons that you’d like to share with others.

They can make ribbons and use them in their own community or place of worship.

Pay it forward a bit . . . what are 2-3 projects, companies or people that you think are doing some good work in the world these days?

There are many. The ministries and programs of Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are doing good work. Some of our partners in the UN community include:

  • Givat Havivz – The Foundation comprises a community of supporters and activists who work to increase awareness of Givat Haviva Institute’s role in advancing Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.
  • ECPAT – A network of organizations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children around the world
  • UNICEF – The driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality.  That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

The list goes on.

Thanks again to the crew at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.  If you want to keep up with their work, please check out their blog, Swords into Plowshares, like their Facebook Page, follow them on Twitter at @PresbyUN or if you would like to support their work text “UN” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

You can also find more 9/11 resources for worship, discussion and interfaith dialog the Presbyterian Church (USA) September 11 Remembrance page.