To Pray and to Sing the Anniversary
In my 2005 book, Where the Light Shines Through (Brazos Press), I begin the chapter, "9/12 Living in a 9/11 World," with this memory:
In late September of 2001, not long after Sept. 11, the Washington Post ran an article by Hanna Rosen called, “God, You Around?” It was about the noticeable resurgence of both outward religious practice and private prayer in the wake of that September’s events. “It’s not just that the faithful are flocking to houses of worship,” she wrote, “it’s that people who have never been and still won’t go, who passed all those candlelight vigils . . . and kept on walking, are finding themselves, despite themselves, praying.” She quotes the head of a network of counselors working mostly with New York business folk: “‘Every other person we spoke to would get to a point where they’d say, ‘Doc, I’m not sleeping well and the only way I can get through this is to pray.’’ And she describes a graffiti artist who once “peppered the sidewalks with, ‘No more prisons,’” but had taken to writing, simply, "Pray."
On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, we can remember the prayers. We can also remember a return to the more assertive claims, as though scratched on sidewalks again: No more terror! No more war! No more innocent deaths, no matter the side! No more fear! No more! No more!
And yet there has been more. There's been more terror, more war, more innocent deaths. There's been more fear and more wonder. And even though our economic challenges seem to be shaking us today, the world still moves beneath us with aftershocks of Sept. 11. And so the faint outline of a street artist's "Pray" should still be readable on the sidewalk, if we look.
So . . . "pray." For more mercy. For greater wisdom. For forgiveness and for God-given resolve to make a difference. For a new order of hope and mutual respect. For refusal among all people to use violence in the name of religion or ideology. For everyone who's lost someone they love in the wake of Sept. 11. For awareness of how to honor the dead and hurt. For courage to work for God's Kingdom, and strength to pray.
In honor of this anniversary, here are new words for an old Presbyterian hymn. I offer them not because they're perfect, or poetic, or wonderfully hymnic. They aren't. I simply offer them as a gift, which we might just sing as a congregation on Sept. 11.
May God bless us all.
"We Sing This Day"
(On the 10th anniversary of 9/11)
Meter: 18.104.22.168. (LLANGLOFFAN, Presbyterian hymnal 291 or hymn tune with same meter)
We sing this day of memory; We sing this day to know
Your strength in consolation; A new resolve to grow.
Horns sing at times of warning, with a clarion's despair
In them we might seek solace, In them find no repair.
When towers of our creation Come down from human hands
We hope for preservation We pray for strength to stand.
Yet yours alone is power, And yours alone is peace.
In you alone a story Of hope and true release.
So on a day of memory, And on a day of grace
It is Christ's touch of mercy, We pray in evil's place.
We will give thanks for wisdom, For comfort in your care
We will decry destruction; A word of hope we'll bear.
So come to us Lord Jesus, when mouths are taciturn.
Give nuanced inclination, Give words for souls that yearn
For persons, groups, and nations To turn great hate to love
And justice be our treasure, And peace our holy trove.
c. Wes Avram
The entry is one in a series of reflections for prayer, meditation, and thinking in preparation for a special Gathering for Reflection, Discussion and Prayer in response to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (and all that has come after that date) on Sept. 7. This event will be led by the pastors and held in the Pinnacle Chapel at 7 p.m. on that Wednesday. We hope that you will join us on Sept. 7.