Father David’s blog of September 10, 2021 —
“Today is a Good Day!” were words shared with me by a New York City policewoman in February of 2002. A group from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chittenango, NY where I was the rector traveled to New York City to volunteer at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan. I was asked to celebrate and preach at the chapel on the day we volunteered, and the memory of that experience has stayed with me for twenty years.
Hours after the World Trade Towers collapsed, the Rev. Lyndon Harris, the priest in charge at St. Paul’s, mobilized volunteers around New York City to set up a 24/7 relief effort for all first responders who helped search for survivors and clean the debris from the devastation of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. The once pristine chapel located near Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, and where George Washington worshipped, was converted into a place of radical hospitality for all who came to New York to help with the relief effort from September 12, 2001 to the end of May 2002. The chapel withstood the attack and became a place of hope and respite for all who came to New York during that time.
I will always remember the scene as I faced the congregation that day in February 2002. Before me policemen and women sat in pews and slept or catching up with colleagues after a long shift working in the “pit”, firemen and women getting a bite to eat in the back of the church and folks entering were greeted by volunteers who loved them unconditionally with a smile on their face.
As I distributed communion that day I came to a young policewoman and as I gave her the host and said, “the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven,” tears welled up in her eyes. After the service concluded she approached me to say that this was the first time she had attended church in months and that it was a good day. I remember being moved to tears.
Twenty years ago tomorrow, we will remember what happened on that bright late summer morning in September 2001. May we take the time this weekend to reflect on that day and how we were changed by it and at the same time not lose hope that as the Body of Christ in the world we are called to be a place of rest and hope, to be men, women and children who hunger and yearn for a better day.
Fr. David+, OA