As Americans across the nation remember the attacks ten years ago on Sept. 11, congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be observing an anniversary that brought terrorism to their own backyard.
Special commemorations are planned at two parishes that have unique ties to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, and at the Episcopal cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh, which will offer visitors a means to connect in a personal way with a specific 9/11 victim.
Other parishes in the diocese will also offer special prayers and remembrances during their regular worship services, as Sept. 11 falls on a Sunday this year.
At St. Francis-in-the-Fields, Somerset, the nearest Episcopal church to where Flight 93 went down, the 9:00 a.m. service will include a reciting of the names of those killed in that crash.
"For Somerset County residents, there is sense of both pride and sorrow — pride that we can honor those Flight 93 heroes who died reflecting the best of what America can be, and sorrow for the loss of life that such heroism entails," said St. Francis' rector, the Rev. Lenny Anderson.
About 25 miles away in Ligonier, the congregation of St. Michael's in the Valley will pause during the 10:30 a.m. service to hear the church's steeple bell toll 40 times, one for each passenger and crew member onboard Flight 93. Some parishioners saw the low-flying Boeing 757 pass directly over the church, minutes before it crashed.
St. Michael's rector, the Rev. Dr. James Simons, was among the first clergy to arrive at the Shanksville site that day. He remained inside the police perimeter after it was sealed and took food to firefighters near the point of impact.
"That experience will remain with me for the rest of my life," he said, "It was a privilege to provide even a small amount of service to the crews that day."
Pittsburgh's Trinity Cathedral will mark Sept. 11 with a special service that culminates a week of prayer for the victims of terrorism.
In the days leading up to the tenth anniversary, visitors to Trinity can pick up memorial cards listing the name, age, city and employer of one of the nearly 3,000 individuals killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Each card will offer a prayer for that person's family and a suggested act of kindness to honor the victim's memory.
"We are encouraging Pittsburghers to stop by the cathedral during the week to pick up one or more of these prayer cards. They may then keep these names in their prayers for the remainder of the week or spend quiet time in the cathedral itself in remembrance and prayer for the lives lost," said the Rev. Paul Johnston of Trinity Cathedral.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, the bells in the cathedral tower will toll at the exact moment ten years earlier that each of the four airplanes crashed and the two World Trade Center towers collapsed. The final tolling, at 10:28 a.m., will lead into the start of the cathedral's regularly scheduled 10:30 Eucharist. That service will feature music and prayers from liturgies held in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Trinity's Provost, the Rev. Canon Dr. Catherine Brall, sees the observance as part of the cathedral's long-time service as "a center for public worship in times of regional and national significance."
Rodef Shalom CongregationThe Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be among the religious organizations joining the Religious Leadership Forum of Southwest Pennsylvania and the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania for an interfaith service of "Memory and Hope," 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 11, at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland.
Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr., will represent the diocese. The service is intended to celebrate the bonds among local Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faith communities.
Refuge at St. Paul's, Mt. Lebanon, is hosting a special service of remembrance Sunday, September 11 at 6:00 p.m. where worshipers will not only remember those lost, but join together in creating a world where love, peace, and freedom rule in the place of hate, anger, fear, and oppression.
"As the emotions of the awful events of 9/11 are stirred, come to worship, to remember, to love, to find a place of Refuge," urges the Rev. Kris Opat of St. Paul's.
The Rev. Jeff Murph reports that St. Thomas Church in Oakmont will mark the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, with special prayers, music and education.
At both morning worship services, there will be special prayers for those who lost their lives in New York, at the Pentagon and in Somerset, as well as for our country and its leaders and for our enemies. Special music will be provided by handbell musicians Bob and Bert Erickson both at the 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services.
At 9:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall, there will be a special presentation on the "Just War Theory," first articulated by St. Augustine in the fourth century for Christians and for nations. The "Just War Theory" examines the conditions when war may be the lesser evil for Christians and for nations and also prescribes how, if war occurs, it must be conducted.