For religious leaders throughout the West Valley, messages to their congregations 10 years after the tragedies on 9/11 will focus on healing and forgiveness, as well as remembrance of those hurt by the events.
The Rev. Jon Ierley, the senior pastor at Willowbrook United Methodist Church, said he will use an example of two close friends of his who went through a very difficult experience, and after 30 years of pain, found that forgiveness was their only way to release the pain.
“We are seeking to bring hope and peace through the message of the day,” Ierley said. “I think that it’s important for all of us.”
The Willowbrook choir will also sing a special selection written in remembrance of the day, called “A Prayer for our Time,” by Joseph Martin.
In regards to 9/11, Ierley pointed out the forgiveness should not be focused on one person or one group of people.
“All of us need to build those bridges and work together,” he said.
Ierley said many people are still questioning, ‘what do we do now?’ and will help his listeners not only heal from the tragedy, but start to move on.
“The emotions of what happened 10 years ago are still so strong,” Ierley said, adding that he knows people who suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing the images of that day, and many people still have that sense of vulnerability.
The Rev. David S. Hodgson at Desert Palms Presbyterian Church in Sun City West will focus on celebrating the qualities of heroism in every person, while the church choir will sing the “Song for the Unsung Hero.”
United Church of Sun City interim senior pastor The Rev. Curtis Ackley, will relay a similar message to his congregation, but will approach the subject with a message of civil discourse.
“It’s a tall order,” he said.
Ackley hopes to open up a dialogue about judging before understanding.
“It’s too easy to do that when thinking about 9/11,” he said, explaining that after the events, especially in politics, Americans start in with character assassination before hearing the other person’s position. “I think we polarized as of 9/11. I just think we are capable of much better than that.”
The United Church is also having a celebration of grandparents on Sunday, and Ackley said he will tie the two together by talking about the concept of justice and passing along wisdom.
The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church is celebrating an ‘Ecumenical Service of Remembrance and Rebuilding’ with 13 other Sun City congregations on Saturday, said Ed McDonnell, the president of St. Elizabeth’s pastoral council.
“You have to focus on remembering the people who we should never forget,” McDonnell said.
He and his wife moved to Arizona from New Jersey just two months after the terrorist attacks, and lost several friends who worked in the World Trade Center.
McDonnell explained the service, lead by St. Elizabeth pastor, the Rev. Joseph P. McGaffin, aims to bring people together not only to remember the fallen, but also to recognize that good did come out of such a tragedy.
Through the legacy of people who lost their lives on 9/11, many charitable organizations have been created not only to assist the families and children affected by the events of that day, but to extend a helping hand others who might need it as well, McDonnell said. The ecumenical service will highlight two such organizations, The Twin Towers Orphan Fund and The Welcome to America Project.
“We are hoping that our service will help restore hope, revive spirits, and repair the lives of families and friends touched by 9/11,” McDonnell said, adding he hopes the congregations will also recognize other people who have been affected by other acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity.
In addition, on Sunday, St. Elizabeth will commemorate 9/11 at the 11 a.m. Mass, including a rededication of the 9/11 Heroes Memorial Tablet in the courtyard.
While the day is about remembering the tragedy and the lives lost, the Rev. Bruce Schipul, senior pastor at Palm West Community Church in Sun City West, said that after 10 years, he hopes that people can also concentrate on the present and future of the country as well.
“We’ve kind of fallen apart,” Schipul said, explaining that in 2001 after the attacks, the country came together, but now, especially with unrest in government and the economy in trouble, people are not working together. “I think there is just such a great sense of anxiety.”
Rabbi David Rosenberg of the Beth Emeth Congregation the West Valley in Sun City West said many people are still stunned over the rare attack on American soil.
“It’s a shock that we’re not used to,” he said.
“We need to remember that any kind of extremism should not be part of our world today,” Rosenberg said.