Thursday, August 09, 2007


Interfaith service at St. Mark’s Cathedral draws more than 1400 by Susan Barksdale

On August 1, the sudden collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River brought the Twin Cities communities together in shock and disbelief. On the evening of August 5, a service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis (just a few minutes from the bridge site) brought them together in prayer. More than 1400 people packed the nave, overflowing into the aisles, the narthex, and the side chapel for what was called “an interfaith service of healing.” The rear gallery was also jam-packed, but with reporters and camera operators, who were covering the service for local and national media.Like the tragedy that had drawn together so many diverse people, so did the service draw from many faith traditions. It was sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches, the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the [Minneapolis] Downtown Clergy association, the Hindu Society of Minnesota, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Caucus of ISAIAH [a family service organization]. Readers and prayer leaders came from the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Native American, and Hispanic communities.

The music was diverse as well. A trio from the Minnesota Orchestra played before the service. Folk singer Ann Reed performed and led the congregation in song. The Bethesda Ensemble Choir, a gospel group, offered several selections during the collection, which was designated for distribution via the Minneapolis Foundation to victims and their families. Canon Musician Raymond Johnston ended the service with a Bach prelude and fugue on the cathedral organ.
The service reached out to all. In addition to faith leaders, city and state elected officials were also present. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak both spoke. Representatives of the police, fire department, and other emergency responders were invited to join the procession. Survivors, families, and many others affected by the tragedy also attended.“A spiritual mortar” for rebuilding“Sometimes words that are so comforting for us are said so often that they lose their meaning,” said Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak, a member of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. Such is the case, he explained, with the words “Our prayers are with you.” Still, he added, it meant so much to hear those words from all over our country at this tragic time. “Prayer is what binds us, becoming a spiritual mortar,” Rybak said. “Will our prayers give us the faith we need to comfort someone, not just now, but in the days and weeks to come? Prayer has brought us together. I think we can always say in this community that prayers will be with us.”After these words, the stone walls of the cathedral almost shuddered as the voices of those assembled joined in the stirring hymn “O God, our help in ages past.”Most of Sunday’s speakers touched on the uniting of the community during the aftermath of the bridge collapse. “Our city has suddenly become small,” said Rabbi Sim Glaser of Temple Israel, Minneapolis. “When tragedy strikes, there is only one way to turn, and that is to each other, because [God] is in all of us.” Shashikant Sane of the Hindu Society noted that the prayers that began at the Hindu temple in Maple Grove early Thursday morning were still continuing. "If a bridge made of iron and steel and cement can fall down," said Hamdy El-Sawaf of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council," then a human bridge of faith, trust, confidence, and hope must be established." A commitment to patience — and a blessingThe Rev. Peg Chemberlin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, gave thanks for all who responded in minutes after the bridge collapse, as well as for “those who stayed behind to tend to the tragedies of our everyday life.” She asked all to commit themselves to a time of profound patience — patience in rebuilding and patience in healing.

Bishop James Jelinek of the Diocese of Minnesota offered this benediction to the congregation — survivors, grieving families, officials, responders, and all those who had simply wanted to come together on this night:

May the God who created the universe and all of us help you to build
bridges of faith and knit each other together in love.

May God, who has given us those who lead with courage and hope and
endurance, inspire you in your own lives to live well.

May God, who had given us those whose selflessness reveals to us the
commonwealth of Heaven, move you to work for the common good.

And may God, who did not make us for darkness and death, take you by the
hand and lead you to life, today and forever. Amen.

From the Weekly News of the Diocese of Minnesota, August 8, 2007

5 comments:

Diane said...

ISAIAH is actually a number of congregations that do church-based organizing and work on social justice issues.

I thought about posting the quote from Hamdy El-Sawaf, but you beat me to it.

I'm preaching on faith this weekend (all the texts have to do with it).

Diane said...

oh, and I planned on going to this (I'm involved in ISAIAH) but I fell asleep.

RevDrKate said...

I was wishing we could have stayed in town longer, I would liked to have gone as well.

Serena said...

BEAUTIFUL ... thank you for sharing. I love truly interfaith services.

Gannet Girl said...

I was stunned to learn about this disaster as I drove home from my 8 days away yesterday and finally ventured to turn on the radio to see if I could stand that much immersion back into the world. I still haven't seen any of the photographs. Thank you so much for bringing the pictures and sounds of the service to us.