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40 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 11 September 2011

On the morning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Dr Courtney Cowart, a 9/11 survivor who served in the recovery of ground zero and the Revd Nadim Nassar, Director of the Awareness Foundation, speak at this commemorative act of worship from Grosvenor Chapel, near to the American Embassy, London. The service is led by Canon James Rosenthal, one of the many American voices gathered to mark this day, which includes a special act of remembrance for the victims killed in the attacks. With the Trinity Laban Choral Scholars, directed by Richard Tanner.

  • Sunday Worship: Grosvenor Chapel, London 11th September 2011

    Please note:

    This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

    It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events

    Music Pilgrims’ Hymns (Stephen Paulus)


    Good morning and Welcome to the Grosvenor Chapel – affectionately know as the American Church - being just a few hundred yards from the American Embassy and with a special ministry to the American community in London going back to the Second World War.

    We’re delighted to welcome the Deputy Ambassador of the United Sates, Barbara Stephenson, who joins us this morning, alongside survivors of the 9/11 attacks to remember and pay tribute to all who lost their lives 10 years ago, holding before God those bereaved and scared by the events of that day.

    9/11 knew no race, creed, gender, age or status. The violence which took place in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington took its toll as nearly 3000 people were killed in less than one hour. Remembering such horrific scenes is not easy. But remembrance is not static – it’s a constantly growing and evolving action which gives us the opportunity to take hold of the past and transform it to reach out with grace, understanding and healing.

    The late great American preacher, Harry Emerson Fosdick of the famed New York Riverside Church, gives us call to that action in our opening hymn, God of Grace and God of glory

    HYMN God of Grace and God of Glory (Harry Emerson Fosdick)


    To mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, today has been declared ‘Awareness Sunday’ – which encourages remembrance, reconciliation and better relationships with those of other faiths as we recall the Christian values of love, forgiveness and respect. As believers, we’re all called to love our neighbours as ourselves, whatever our neighbours' religious faith or worldview.

    Canon Rex Davies of the Grosvenor Chapel now offers the new prayer written for Awareness Sunday.

    REX Prayer for Awareness Sunday

    Loving God, we remember before you those who have been victims of terrorism and whose deaths we continue to mourn. Give us strength to be instruments of bringing good from evil, that following the example of the Prince of Peace, we may come to share with all the joy of creation. Give us an awareness of your presence in all things and empower us to celebrate our oneness in humanity in a spirit of reconciliation and peace.

    For you are the source of hope and to you we give praise; Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Our first reading is from Isaiah, chapter 61, and is read by Barbara Stephenson, Deputy Ambassador of the United States.

    READING Isaiah 61: 1-4,11

    MUSIC God be in my Head - Rutter

    Dr Courtney Cowart is a 9/11 survivor. Ten years ago, she was working as a Spiritual Formations Director at Trinity Church Wall Street - just one block from the World Trade Centre.


    On the morning September 11th 2001, I was at Trinity Church hosting Archbishop Rowan Williams and a group of spiritual formation leaders for the filming of a Lentern TV series. We were due to start filming at 8:45am. At 8:46am American Airlines Flight 11 dived into the North Tower.

    The emotional and visual memory of that moment has a strong hold. I was in the midst of highly diverse strangers who, in the face of violent mortality, instantly became one. My ministry and life has never been the same since. The second Sunday after the attack I travelled into the site to serve as a chaplain in the pile.

    Entering, we were dwarfed by the immense wreckage looming around us. It was a landscape drained of all color. There was a hideous strength in there.

    In the killing heat bit-by-bit the workers sifted the ruins. Kneeling they raked the ash, searching inch-by-inch for a bone, a respirator, a piece of fireproof clothing – signs that human remains might be nearby. The smell of decay was strong but they did not seem to notice – so complete was their commitment to their task.

    Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American. Thousands arrived on the doorstep of our Little Church That Stood unscathed on the precipice of ground zero.

    Together, we went to work, creating stations of compassion in every corner of the church. The acts of podiatrists, massage therapists, chiropractors, counselors, restaurateurs, and musicians filled the space. Letters from tens of thousands of children covered every inch of wall. Multiply these examples by thousands. Then multiply again.

    Daily we manifested what I can only describe as a power. It was a power so thick that it took your breath away.

    Living this way drew ever more people to us, and pulled ever-greater acts of love out of us.

    Life was re-generated and people miraculously thrived.

    One day a journalist came to visit the church. He asked about our experience on the morning of the attack, so I walked with him the route I ran with Archbishop Rowan and described our experience of facing near certain death.

    I recalled with him the collapse of the South Tower and how we were suffocating. I described holding wet baby bibs over the faces of children from our daycare so they could breathe.

    I told him about looking into the eyes of fire-fighters running toward their deaths.

    And then I remembered in the stampede how terror ceased for just a moment at the sight of two people carrying a woman with a twisted leg.

    When the journalist and I returned to the church he looked around the chapel.
    Thousands of people of every faith tradition were sitting together in the pews in pairs whispering to each other in hushed voices in the candlelight, listening across so much difference, as if nothing else in the world mattered but this person, this life, this sacred text from life being shared.

    The journalist took it all in and asked: After nearly being buried alive who do you have to be to make this move?

    In response I walked him out onto the west portico of the church, the side that faces ground zero. I invited him to look to our left at the crater of death. The path that hate creates. Then without moving I invited him to turn his head and look through the chapel door.

    Then I said, “What I’ve learned is that we have a choice. We can either be in denial, or be in revenge, or we can choose a third way: to generate peace. If we choose peace-making we have the capacity to literally drive the darkness out.”

    Ten years on I believe with all my heart we were in training at ground zero. It was as if we were given a torch. We understood, when the recovery of the site was over this was not the end. It was the beginning. We had to go out into the world and take that torch and carry it from ground zero to wherever it needed to go.

    What we experienced at ground zero in one city, in one country, at 9/11 was only a tiny fraction of our collective human capacity to generate destruction through the practice of hate or to generate peace through the practice of love.

    HYMN All my hope on God if founded



    In front of me, at the centre of the nave, is a solitary candle, surrounded by white lilies. Deputy Ambassador Barbara Stephen will now light this candle, leading us all in remembrance of those who died in the terror attacks of 9/11. May this flame become a symbol of light that banishes darkness; a light of new and everlasting life.

    READER 1

    Eternal God, we remember before you the lives taken in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. In faith and trust we hold their memory in your love and mercy.

    READER 2

    We remember all in the emergency services – the police, fire fighters and medics – who in the face of terror sacrificed their lives in the hope of saving others.

    JAMES - O Lord, hear our prayer.

    ALL - And let our cry come unto Thee.

    JAMES - May the Almighty and merciful Lord graciously hear us.

    ALL- Amen.

    JAMES - And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
    ALL - And rise in glory Amen.

    MUSIC Pie Jesu – Durufle
    One of the greatest glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – known as the Beatitudes.

    READER GOSPEL Beatitudes

    Preaching for us this morning is the Reverend Nadim Nassar, a Syrian priest in the Church of England, and Director of the Awareness Foundation.


    “The destruction wrought by incomprehensible evil ripples from one life to another, from one generation to the next, binding together the destiny of individuals and societies.” Says psychologist Elizabeth Goren, in her book ‘Beyond the Reach of Ladders.’ How does the evil that took place on 9/11 affect our generation in our understanding of the meaning of life?

    The questions that challenged humanity since the Epic of Gilgamesh in the second millennium BC, continue to stand before us today as the ultimate mystery. What is the meaning of life, and what is beyond the final threshold of death? We can ask the same questions in so many ways, but the wonder remains the same and the quest for an answer never stops.

    Our approach to dealing with this mystery determines how we understand what happens to us and around us. Many people spend their lives trying to understand why major events in our lives have happened.

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a 20th Century Roman Catholic theologian, shifts our focus from why things happen to “asking how will we respond, what we intend to do now that they happened.” 10 years after the atrocities of 11th September 2001, are we still trapped by the question of “Why did it happen?” or can we say that we have moved on to evaluate how we responded to what happened?

    As we all know, enmity, hatred, revenge and bitterness are almost inevitable consequences of violence and war. Jesus Christ was the first human being in history to make the divine revelation: ‘Love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you.’ This might sound unrealistic, almost ridiculous and certainly extremely difficult to follow, especially after incidents such as the tragedies of 9/11. Every one of us has the choice: to surrender our hearts to anger and revenge, or to allow the risen Lord to help us fulfil His commandment to love our enemy and to remember always that love never falls. That is our choice: to repay evil with evil or to show the humility to repay evil with an act of love.

    Coming back from Syria, my homeland, where I had just witnessed violence tearing communities apart, I thought of my time studying in Beirut during seven years of the Lebanese Civil War. In Beirut, I saw with my own eyes bloodshed in the name of religion, and I came close to death several times because of my faith. I struggled with this choice: to allow the violence to fill my heart with hatred or to become an instrument of God’s love. I chose to work with young people in that war torn city to enable them to respond to acts of destruction with acts of rebuilding – rebuilding both their own lives and their relationships with their neighbours of any religion.

    Violence in the name of God or in the name of religion is the bitterest example of the collision of love and evil: a clash between love, which is divine, and the evil that comes out of our broken relationships. Every single relationship that is broken is an opportunity for evil to grow, and it is our responsibility to heal this brokenness through living the faith that light shines in the darkness and darkness will never overcome it.
    Beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger that death; victory is ours, through Him who lives us.”

    We are here today on Awareness Sunday to witness to the same divine love that took flesh and blood and walked among us and changed our world forever. Those who were helpless spectators at Jesus’ death upon the Cross, became after His Resurrection apostles of life and light. In the Resurrection, the apostles allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them, then they saw the Cross differently, as a symbol of victory over hatred and evil. They became God’s instruments to turn evil into good, darkness into light and even death into life, not through their own powers but by the power of the Risen One who is the ultimate source of goodness, light, love and life.

    Today we follow the steps of the apostles and the millions of disciples of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, throughout history, and humbly allow the same Spirit of the risen Christ to work through us.
    Our faith is not about asking God to fix things for us when they go wrong but it is the ability for us to step forward and do something to heal what evil has broken. We must match evil that destroys with the force of love that heals and rebuilds.
    By turning love into actions with our neighbour, we are responding to God’s love to all humanity, moving us closer to a full understanding of the meaning of life and the purpose of our creation. God is love and when we translate this love into action, we become rooted in God and God becomes rooted in us.

    MUSIC O vos omnes (Paul Mealor)

    And so to our prayers led by [a young American student, by Matthew from Massachusetts, John from Brooklyn who was teaching a class on 9/11 as news echoed through the school halls, Dayton who was on a airplane taking off from JFK Airport and forced to return as the passengers were told the news and smoke could be seen, Huda Nassar, the Middle East Director of the Awareness Foundation, who has just returned from a month in Syria.

    READER 1

    Lord God, we bring before you the families and loved-ones, who, ten years on, continue to mourn and grieve. Strengthen the broken hearted and comfort them in their sorrow.
    Lord in your mercy
    Hear our prayer

    READER 2

    Gracious God, we thank you for those who have dedicated their lives to help rebuild broken relationships and heal division formed out of fear and hatred. Grant to those in authority and influence wisdom and courage as they seek to reconcile your people.
    Lord in your mercy
    Hear our prayer

    READER 1

    O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children.
    Lord in your mercy
    Hear our prayer

    READER 2

    Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace.
    Lord in your mercy
    Hear our prayer


    Now with Christians of all traditions around the world we pray as Christ taught us:
    Our Father, who art in heaven,
    Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come.
    Thy will be done on earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever.

    Our final hymn, set to an American folk tune, calls for God’s grace and glory – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

    HYMN Come Thou Fount of every Blessing (Robert Robinson)

    Our prayer for this Awareness Sunday is that the Prince of Peace will influence all of our intentions and guide our response to the world of terror, as well as the world of beauty, a world of wonder and a world that needs to know the love of God in Christ, who asks us to be his body – his church – in our world today.
    And may the blessing of God,
    the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
    be with you and those you love,
    this day and evermore,

    ORGAN Voluntary to fade


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