It has been a place of spiritual refuge for faithful followers of Christ during every war since the War of Independence, and is no less that today. Since St. Paul's is but a block from the WTC itself, it has been closed to the public since September 11, and currently serves only as a continuing place of refuge where Ground Zero workers can eat, pray, rest and receive counseling and chiropractic care.
However, the chapel fence outside has become a gathering place for thousands every day since the authorities began allowing public access to the west side of Broadway. The church has responded to the emotional needs of visitors by posting large canvas drop cloths hung from the church's fence, where they may write their names and messages. I understand that by the time we were there, over 200 drop cloths had been filled.
I spent less than a half hour just observing and praying quietly in a pew filled with cards and letters, but as much as St. Joseph's Chapel, or the Lamb's Church, or the Salvation Army Center inside the perimeter of Ground Zero, this chapel has grabbed my heart and focused my prayers for those here, believer and non-believer alike, who are so devastated and worn in the aftermath of 9/11.
Where, one wonders, can we find meaning in all this? We came to NY to serve, and yet in many ways it is us who have received. We fully expected to be changed by the experience; but still...our hopes were to give the love of Christ to the hurting people of NYC, and where invited, to give an account with gentleness and reverence, of our hope within, that comes from our personal relationship with Christ. And yet... And yet, here at St. Paul's, I'm convicted again of not only the inadequacy of our presence, but the beauty of God's mercy...that those here, who know Christ, can better give to their own than we can, and also have an abundant resource left over, to give to us.
My heart cries out when I see the broken firefighters, or police veterans who come here to weep, to collapse in a pew in prayer or to find a moment of peace. As I gaze at the pictures of this place during the day of September 11, tears flow freely that this hallowed place in American history was spared as much as a broken window, when destruction reigned down all around it. Several times while in NY the tears came. First when I saw Lady Liberty, then when I saw the firefighter in the subway, again as I went to St. Paul's, with counselees at the Lamb's Church and today, as I write and ponder what we as a church and I as a believer can and should do to next, regarding the massive continuing need in New York.
Or should I leave NY to those better qualified to serve there and refocus and redouble my effort where I have greater influence ? Their needs are so great, and we are so small. It is only through Christ that anything can be accomplished here, and as Sharalee Lucas sings so profoundly here, any efforts done in our own strength are worthless as well.
There are some troubling things that I've repeatedly heard from those who ignore biblical Truth, or have bought into the "politically correct" views espoused by many. Things like..."no one religion or belief is right or wrong." Or..."as citizens of the world we must learn not offend someone, so we should remove all trappings of Christianity from all public places and we should abolish prayer from schools and government and admonish those who are so intolerant to want it."
As kind and benevolent as that may sound to some, this philosophy misses what drove George Washington, John Adams, Abe Lincoln, G. W. Bush, and our stalwart band of volunteers...that Christ is THE ANSWER, not the problem. It is the precepts from the Old and New Testament that helped carve our great nation's foundations, not the writings of some other religion.
It is the God of the Old and New Testament who has preserved this nation from its humble beginnings, and it is THAT God, who protected this nation once again from what could have been an even greater catastrophic loss of life at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
And certainly one difference between Christianity and other religions is that we believe that faith is the answer to man's separation from God, not works, and not war. Yes...Christ is the answer, not the problem.
Jesus is God. He is Lord. He came as a baby to provide the ONLY way to a just and holy Father. His message was so powerful that he attracted the sinner, and he did not judge them. Yes, He WILL one day sit in judgment of us all, but while He was here the first time, He only drew people to Himself by His love, and His grace. It's not about religion, it's about a personal relationship with Him. It's not about judgment or tolerance, it's about love. I know I can disagree with those I love in my family and my friends, and love them just as much.
Now the question I face as we enter the new year: can I find good and acceptable ways to expand my love to ALL those I come in contact with, to make the love that Christ has to give, powerfully attractive to those who don't know of it yet? Can I be more outgoing, more creative, more like Jesus, and enter into their world, and offer His love and my love by initiating conversation and giving them an opportunity to hear from me, the refreshing and soul saving gospel of Jesus Christ ... if they are so inclined?
Written December 29, 2001
Donald R. Farr