Americans fill pews in search for solace
The Associated Press
"This is just a wonderful expression of solidarity," said the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of the cathedral.
The first three services of the five-service day filled the 1,100 seats at the church on Capitol Hill.
Taylor said many Muslims introduced themselves to the congregation before services.
"The Muslims have said to me that God, any God who is a God of terror, is not our God," he said.
Regular parishioner Cherry Haisten, 49, said the service was particularly important to her.
"Every Sunday is important to me, but because of what's happened this week, this is special," she said. "I think this is clear evidence that the spirit is so important in the world."
Another regular parishioner, Carl Sackett, 39, of Seattle, said all of his relatives from around the state were in Seattle to attend church. He said prayer was especially important this week.
"You're praying for the people who have been lost," he said. "This is a sad day. It's a sad day for the whole nation."
It was a sentiment that had Americans, clutching flags and prayer books, flocking to services yesterday throughout the nation.
"God Bless America" mixed with gospel music. Images of the destruction in New York and at the Pentagon flashed on sanctuary walls. Ushers distributed tissues to weeping parishioners.
In New York, about 250 members of the historic parish of Trinity Church Wall Street, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, moved services to a Roman Catholic shrine a block from where the twin towers had stood.
"Human words are inadequate, and so we come together to turn to the word of God," said the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, vicar of Trinity, a 300-year-old Episcopal parish.
New York Cardinal Edward Egan celebrated Mass in the majestic St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, urging parishioners to commune with God to ease the grief of the past week. The crowd stood and applauded when Egan thanked rescuers and lauded New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who attended the service. The two leaders hugged during the ovation.
Ministers saw lessons in the outpouring after the collapse: to value family and friends and to be kind to strangers. The attacks also posed a challenge, they said, to stay hopeful when bitterness threatened to consume the nation.
"God's love and our hatred cannot coexist in our hearts," said the Rev. Charles Kullmann of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York. "Jesus came to save all sinners, even terrorists."
Deborah Welsh, a flight attendant on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania, was a member of the choir at the Roman Catholic church. Choir members pinned pictures of Welsh to their clothing. The hymn after communion was "America the Beautiful."
"It has been a bitter week for all of us," said the Rev. Paul Brooks of First Baptist Church of Raytown, Mo., a Kansas City suburb.
Many pondered the war ahead.
"As the father of four sons, I don't want to sacrifice their lives for this injustice. And yet there must be a right for this wrong," said Brad Sampson, who gathered with tearful Mormons in Logan, Utah.
Tyson Cobb, outside Glendale Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, said he was troubled about responding to the carnage.
"Having three kids, it makes me really angry, but I don't want to perpetuate the violence to where we're going to escalate it and threaten more families," Cobb said.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, at a mosque in Chicago, condemned the "wild beasts" who perpetrated the assault and supported harsh punishment for them. But Farrakhan also argued U.S. foreign policy fostered hatred overseas, a feeling that could change if the government did more to help poor countries.
Also yesterday, religious leaders from Lebanon to Australia organized special worship. Many countries lost citizens in the attacks.
The head of Lebanon's Maronite Church, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, in a special Mass condemned the "heinous crime" against the United States.
And Pope John Paul II offered "my heartbroken and shared thoughts" to Americans and prayed that victims' families would find comfort. He urged restraint in efforts to find the terrorists.
Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.