Prayer services offer Topekans hope and healing
Publication date: 2002-09-12
By Phil Anderson
Hundreds of Topeka-area residents sought comfort and hope Wednesday in houses of worship as they came to grips with the one- year anniversary of 9-11.
Prayer services took place in the morning, afternoon and evening in a variety of locations across Topeka, providing an opportunity for people to continue to deal with their feelings regarding the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
Linda Haines, 51, of Overbrook, was among about 100 attendees at a 12:05 p.m. Mass at Assumption Catholic Church, 204 S.W. 8th.
"I came as a remembrance of those who gave so much for us," Haines said. "It makes me feel good to be here."
Two blocks away, about 120 people turned out for a noon service at First Presbyterian Church, 817 S.W. Harrison. Attendees joined together for prayer, hymns and readings.
Three candles on an altar at the front of the sanctuary were lit during the service, representing grief, resilience and hope --- the largest candle in the center of the arrangement.
"We were truly giving people a chance to reflect on the tragedy of a year ago and to put that in the context of God's sovereign love and providence," said the Rev. Neil Weatherhogg, pastor of First Presbyterian. "I think people are still trying to make sense of how something that evil could happen.
"I think it's important for people to be together at times like this, to share the experience," he added. "I noticed it was very quiet as people came in and left. I think that's what they were looking for."
One of those in the First Presbyterian audience was Peter Gallego, 57, of Topeka. He wore a shirt commemorating 9-11.
"We as Americans should always remember what transpired a year ago, not only because we're all brothers and sisters, but because it cut deep into our hearts," Gallego said. "In order to try to forgive those who conceived this hatred toward our people, we must remember to pray for them, because they, too, are our brothers and sisters, even though they have their own ideas about other people."
Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 531 S.E. 33rd Terrace, conducted a World Day of Prayer service at 11:30 a.m. About 30 people were on hand for the program, which included prayers, songs and a message by the Rev. Harold Murray.
Also participating in the service at the Pilgrim church was the Rev. Birda Lee, who said "many sincere prayers went up today" for families, relatives and friends who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks.
Members of several congregations attended the Pilgrim service, including those from Calvary Baptist Church, St. Matthew's Catholic Church and New Hope Baptist Church.
Lee noted other services were taking place in congregations across town.
"It was all for one purpose, and that was to pray and ask God for his guidance and his comfort," she said. "Because words cannot comfort the hearts of people who have suffered so great a loss. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is a comforter, and we're asking God to let his Holy Spirit comfort the hearts of people."
Representatives of various religious groups and spiritual traditions took part in a day-long program of meditation at the Learning Life Center, 1709 S.W. Randolph.
Presentations were made by individuals from the Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Christian, Baha'i and Islamic traditions.
Sister Rita Anderson, from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, led a one-hour meditation on "Death and Resurrection."
"I think having services or times of meditation like this enables people to process their fear and turn it into hope," Sister Rita said.
Another presentation at the Learning Life Center was led by Rabbi Lawrence P. Karol, of Temple Beth Sholom.
In many respects, Wednesday paralleled the Jewish tradition of "yahrzeit," the one-year anniversary of a death.
"I think a lot of us are still overwhelmed by what we saw last year," Karol said. "One of the ways to respond to that is to get a sense that we can still be whole, and that God can help us through, so we can have peace and be cognizant of God's presence in our lives."
Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or email@example.com.
©Copyright 2002, Topeka Capital Journal