Sept. 11 Services: Interfaith group gathers on Brooklyn Heights Promenade for words of healing, grace and mercy
FDNY Procession from Ground Zero Concludes with Mass in Prospect Hts.
“Grace is wider and deeper than you think, and it can change far more than you ever imagine. You can’t learn grace. You have to surrender to it.”
Pastor Adriene Thorne of First Presbyterian Church and co-head of the Brooklyn Heights Interfaith Clergy Association spoke this message at the neighborhood’s commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. For the past 16 years, clergy and lay members of the community, along with members of the NYPD’s 84th Precinct, have gathered on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for prayers, readings and messages of healing.
This year’s service focused on grace, healing and conversion of heart. The faith leaders who spoke all underscored the need for people to gather together and recognize each other’s preciousness, especially in the current national climate where hatred and violent acts have become more widespread among American citizens.
Thorne led a movement prayer that opened participants up to receiving grace, which the Christian tradition states is a gift from God.
One of the most poignant messages came from Dr. Ahmad Jaber, chairman of the Masjid Dawood (Dawood Mosque), which was established in 1947. Translating the portion of the Quran that Imam Abdallah Allam had just chanted, Jaber spoke of the need to have mercy in one’s soul. He said that God created human beings “so that you would know each other, and not to fight each other.” He again denounced the people who perpetrated 9/11, saying they did not represent Islam.
“God created mercy, but he gave to humankind only one portion, one percent, of it. He kept for himself 99 percent of the mercy to give on the day of judgment to those who are merciful. If you don’t forgive, then the Lord will not forgive you,” said Jaber. “Retaining hatred and anger against others, then you will not be loved by anybody, especially by Allah.” Hardness of heart does not allow God’s mercy to enter in, he cautioned.
Pastor Michael Subracko of Resurrection Church-Brooklyn Heights leads a non-denominational faith community that meets Sunday morning, at Congregation Mount Sinai. During Monday’s Promenade service, he read Psalm 46, which begins with the words of comfort: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Subracko and associate pastor Joe Dewey were both present.
This year’s Promenade service welcomed some new Heights clergy, including Rabbi Hanniel Levenson, who became spiritual leader of Congregation Mt. Sinai earlier this summer after Rabbi Seth Wax left to accept the Jewish chaplaincy at Williams College in Massachusetts. Levenson led the gathering in a song based on Psalm 19.
Also new this year was Rev. William G. Smith, who was appointed pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church earlier this summer.
Monday’s 9/11 service concluded with the blowing of the shofar. Rabbi Serge Lippe, senior rabbi at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and a longstanding member of the Clergy Association, spoke about the current month being one of reflection in preparation for the Jewish New Year.
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Earlier on Monday, the Fire Department personnel took part in a procession that began at Ground Zero, and then headed across the Brooklyn Bridge. Firefighters from across the U.S. joined New York City’s bravest and families of the fallen at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. From there, the group marched 23 FDNY ceremonial flags in single file across the Brooklyn Bridge — each flag representing one of 23 firefighters from Battalion 57 in Brooklyn killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and whose bodies were never recovered. An announcement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn stated that “The journey from ground zero to Brooklyn serves to symbolically bring the brothers back home. The procession will also include an FDNY ceremonial flag for every New York City Firefighter killed on 9/11 and an American flag, in remembrance of all who died that day.” Also, see Mary Frost’s coverage of the procession.
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