Interfaith service on Sunday recalls unity on 9/11

Rabbi Beth Schwartz of Temple Israel says a special 9/11 event Sunday afternoon in Columbus will be very moving.

“We need to be moved,” Schwartz said.

At 4 p.m. in the St. Luke Ministry Center on 11th Street, “The Gift of Memory, The Promise of Hope, The Call to Action: An Interfaith and Intergenerational Celebration” will be held. The free event is billed as a service of music and word aimed at “building a future together.”

“It was a horrible tragedy that saw Americans of all walks of life, of all faiths come together,” Schwartz said of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. “It is good to be reminded of that. We need to take stock of resources we have as a community and think about how we can work together.”

The Rev. Cindy Garrard of St. Luke United Methodist Church gave an important reason for ceremonies such as the one Sunday.

“The children’s book ‘Towers Falling’ by Jewell Parker Rhodes provides an important reminder that children who are now in high school and younger have no memory of 9/11, an incident which shaped and continues to influence American politics and even religion,” Garrard said. “If we are to understand who we are as a nation, we need to better understand how we got here. This is very recent history but one which provides a key to understanding the American national psyche.”

Several musical groups will perform including the Horn Studio of the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music, the Voices of the Valley youth choir and a special Interfaith Mass Choir directed by Rick McKnight, choir director at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Columbus.

It was McKnight, along with the Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards, St. Thomas rector, who came up with the idea for the 9/11 service.

Burton-Edwards said it was shortly following a multi-faith service of mourning held at the Columbus Civic Center in June following the massacre in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub that talk of another special unity service came about.

There will be several speakers focusing on aspects of action needed to bring people together, including kindness, listening, respect, courage, empathy and understanding.

Speakers include Schwartz, the Rev. Adrian Chester of Greater Beallwood Baptist Church in Columbus, Army chaplain Capt. Brad Kattelman, Columbus engineer Farhad AliFarhani, Columbus mortician Cedric Hill, Columbus businessman Michael Silverstein and Columbus High student Lydia Rice. Members of the Thompson Art Project will give a presentation.

Hill was a member of the D-MORT response team that went to New York City.

Burton-Edwards said the service, which concludes with an ice cream social, will honor first responders and others who helped.

“We are remembering the good things that happened as well as the bad,” Chester said.

“We are recalling how people came together to help one another,” Garrard said.

She called AliFarhani a leader in the Muslim community who has spoken powerfully in the past about the “true nature of Islam.”

“This service is a reunion of the unity,” AliFarhani said. “Through faith, we are all connected. We are all God’s children.”

“This is a call to action,” Chester said. “We do a lot of talking but not talking to each other. We need to make a world where we all understand each other. We can be peacemakers. We can make a world where we all understand each other.”

Garrard said unity needs to be shown outside special services such as this.

“We need to be together and not just when something bad happens,” she said. “We need to respect the rights of each other.”

“Learning and experiencing the traditions of others helps us understand each other,” said Burton-Edwards. “What overcomes fear is knowing one another.”

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer