By Bevin Theodore
In the 10 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the nation has been on an emotional rollercoaster.
Americans moved through pain, anger and fear. But now, a decade after the horrific events, it is time to look forward. In this spirit, religious leaders from the Easton area have joined forces to mark the anniversary with an Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope planned for Sunday afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Church of Easton.
The idea for the service started to take shape a year ago for Father Andrew Gerns, rector at Trinity Episcopal.
“I was, frankly, appalled at some of the hateful rhetoric that was flying around the Ground Zero Mosque controversy,” he said.
He realized that steps needed to be taken to avoid having fear and hate become the focal points of the 10th anniversary. So he began talking with members of his congregation and other area religious leaders to make plans for an appropriate event that would integrate elements of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths into one service. Everyone will come together Sunday for the culmination of their efforts. The service begins at 2 p.m., with an organ prelude starting at 1:30.
In addition to Trinity Episcopal Church of Easton, the following congregations are taking part in the service: Bnai Abraham Synagogue, College Hill Presbyterian Church, First United Church of Christ of Easton, First Presbyterian Church of Easton, St. John’s Lutheran Church of Easton, Temple Covenant of Peace and The Easton-Phillipsburg Muslim Association.
Each religious leader will play a role in the service, which will include scripture readings and prayers interlaced with music, directed by Dale Grandfield, Trinity Episcopal Church’s music minister. Eight members of the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, a chamber orchestra comprised of Lehigh Valley musicians and 20 students from Easton Area High School’s choir will perform Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem” in addition to other hymns written in response to Sept. 11. While the musicians have been rehearsing for months, they will all come together for the first time Saturday morning.
Gerns said while the organizers are not against patriotism, that is not the primary focus of the event.
“We talk about remembrance, remembering the people who died, remembering the people who suffered, remembering the people who still suffer … and also to turn that remembrance into hope,” he said. I understand hope as faith that looks forward.”
At 4 p.m. Sunday, the city of Easton will hold a tribute to emergency services workers. Gerns will say the invocation, and the Metropolitan Opera singers will perform at that event in Scott Park as well, but Gerns said he suspects it will have a different feel from the interfaith service.
Many members of Trinity Episcopal Church’s congregation were personally touched by September 11. Some lost loved ones. Others worked in the Twin Towers, escaped and moved to the Lehigh Valley for a fresh start.
“Every time I’ve talked about this with people, we’re heard various 9/11 stories,” Gerns said.
Since the attacks, the nation has endured war, a suffering economy and a range of emotions as people try to make sense of an unfathomable occurrence. Gerns believes this is why it’s only now that memorials are under way for the crash sites.
“We’ve kind of been living in the shadow of these attacks for 10 years,” he said. “I think it’s taken this long as a country, a nation, to process what this meant.”
He said the coarseness of the ongoing political debate has also hampered the ability to move past fear.
“I don’t think that’s how most people want to live,” he said. “I think that we will lift ourselves past it and say, ‘OK, how can we as a people pull together?’”
In recent years, Gerns has noticed an increase in young people reaching out to others and living beyond their own insular worlds, whether through community service or social networking. He sees this same advancement in Easton, where he says people really long to be a community.“I see signs of hope all over the place,” he said.
Trinity Episcopal Church is located at 232 Spring Garden Street in Easton. Scott Park is located on Larry Holmes Drive near the Forks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers. Parking is available in lots throughout the city or on the street. Street parking is free on Sundays.