Crowds were a distinctive part of the 9/11 experience ten years ago: first, the dust-covered crowds moving away from the fallen towers, then the crowds of people who showed up at houses of worship and memorial events all across America—and eventually the crowds of photographs honoring the lives lost in the towers. The image at right is just one example of a photo collage recalling those killed on 9/11/2001.
The Rev. Craig Goodwin is a Presbyterian pastor known nationally for his family memoir, Year of Plenty, which tells about a year he and his family dedicated to eating locally and also to showing concern for an impoverished community in Asia. You will enjoy our earlier interview with the Goodwins about their Year of Plenty.
YEAR OF PLENTY NEWS! The Goodwins have posted a study guide to help you discuss Year of Plenty. The new guide is free to download via a link in the right margin of the Year of Plenty blog.
NOW, Craig Goodwin closes out our 9/11 series:
By Craig Goodwin
At Clear Lake Presbyterian in Houston, where I was a pastor at the time, the sanctuary was standing room only the weekend after the towers fell. I’ve never seen so many unfamiliar faces in worship and I remember such an earnest desire to connect with God. I was also struck by the half dozen Muslims who joined us that morning in an act of solidarity.
That season had the feel of revival and renewal in sanctuaries across the nation. Church leaders speculated that the religious landscape in America would never be the same again. But after a couple months—attendance at Clear Lake Presbyterian and most other churches in America returned to pre-9/11 levels. A recent USA Today article recently describes this slide back to the religious status quo:
“A decade later, the soulful response seems fleeting. Statistically, the rush to the pews was a mere blip in a long-standing trend away from traditional religious practice, according to tracking studies by The Barna Group, a Christian research company.”
Regardless of these trends, 9/11 still stands as a signpost that points us to our deepest longings and desires to connect with God and community. In the busy-ness and distractions of everyday life, it’s easy to forget.
So, as the 10-year anniversary approaches, it’s a helpful exercise to remember how those events opened us up to God and each other. Remember the grief and lament that we poured out in prayer because we didn’t know where else to turn. Remember how our hearts were softened toward our neighbors and forgiveness came a little easier. Remember how generous we were with hugs and loving concern. Remember how we committed to getting our priorities straight because life is precious and we only have so much time. Remember the questions about justice and peace and terror that drove us to our knees in repentance. Remember how, in our suffering, we were drawn to the cross of Jesus who suffered and died for a sin-broken world. Remember the clarifying moment when we were compelled to be at church because we knew it was a place of orientation and hope in the midst of disorientation and despair.
And let’s also remember that the status quo tugs at us and makes it hard to remember. It’s easy to get mixed up and lose sight of our most basic desire to know God.
May we never forget.
Table of Contents:
All of our 9/11 reflections you can use …
- Quaker novelist and teacher Philip Gulley: Why Get Up the Decade After?
- Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield: Sprouting Compassion Again
- New York pastor and author Susan Sparks: The lifeboat of laughter!
- Episcopal author and educator C.K. Robertson: Going beyond what is comfortable
- Ian Fleming scholar Benjamin Pratt: What James Bond told us in ‘Shaken, not stirred’
- Film critic Ed McNulty: Four movies from different perspectives on 9/11
- Quaker singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer: Learning to Breathe In, Breathe Out, again.
- Celtic Christian writer John Philip Newell: Prayers Connecting Distant Shores
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.