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Faith community responds to 9/11

Because the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in America lands on a Sunday, faith communities have been responding by planning special prayers and sermons to be delivered during regular morning worship services.

Separate community services to commemorate the event are also being held throughout the state.

In Willmar, eight area churches will hold a joint service at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Civic Center and four churches that part of the Willmar Area Ministerial Association will host an ecumenical service at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar.

Mari Thorkelson, pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar, said it's important for a community to be together and pray and sing together on this important anniversary.

"It bonds us at the deepest levels and empowers us to live forward. We come together so those who died will not be forgotten," she said.

Noting the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is also an opportunity for people to grieve and to forgive, said area church leaders.

It's important for people to lament together and work together for peace rather than to dwell in the anger surrounding the attack, said Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"We can lament that our world doesn't feel as safe as it used to be," said Anderson, and pray that there is "peace between people."

Fear, anger and uncertainty were common responses to 9/11, but "can lead us to choose a path of hatred, retaliation, misunderstanding and destruction," said Father Steve Verhelst from the Church of St. Mary.

Those negative responses can also "be as destructive as the event itself" and should be countered with education and understanding that can start by getting to know people in our own neighborhoods, said Thorkelson, who spent time living in the Middle East.

"We have the most important opportunity right here in our multicultural community," she said. "The fact is we are all created by God. Our differences are an important reason for getting to know one another and be able to create stronger community right here, building bridges rather than walls," she said.

Verhelst said that since 9/11 people have learned that fear and uncertainty "can also become an opportunity to seek a path of understanding, hope and a belief that death does not have the final say. Life comes from death."

While it's important to acknowledge the sadness surrounding the day, church leaders say there are also things to be thankful for.

Every anniversary of 9/11 "invites us to stop, think, reflect, remember, give thanks and learn from where we've been and who we hope to become," said Verhelst.

"It is important to be thankful for our ability as a nation to survive this tragedy. We take time to be thankful for the gift of humility that our nation needed to embrace as a result of 9/11," he said. "We take time to be thankful for the gift of freedom, free to worship, free to live, free to think and act in different ways. We take time to give thanks for the diversity of cultures and people."

"As we lament and as we remember and grieve, we give thanks as well for many beautiful things that have been done," said Anderson. "I trust and I hope God will help us build a better future together."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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