Submitted by Board Member, The Rev. Sarah Person
“Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.” Abraham J. Heschel
Five years ago, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I gathered with fellow clergy and laypeople to wager our hopes on an indifferent city. We called ourselves the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding. We were Catholic, Protestant, Baha’i, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Jew, Pagan, Unitarian Universalist, and Hindu. We had issued an invitation to the people of Hartford to join with us at the Cathedral of St. Joseph for an evening service “United in Prayer, Healing with Hope.”
We arrived early, proceeding to the robing rooms downstairs – our shoes echoing in the cavernous space. I was told it seated over a thousand. Why this place, I thought. It is massive, massively Christian, massively empty. How can we possibly bring people together here? Are people ready to reach out to one another across a gulf of painful memories, and be among strangers on this day of all days?
It wasn’t until it was time, and we had moved down the aisle and up the chancel steps and turned around to face the sanctuary that I had my answer. The Cathedral was filled to overflowing. Wall to wall, a sea of faces looked back at me – all ages, all colors, wearing all colors, Sunday best and work clothes and vestments. And on their faces was courage. When my turn came to speak, I put down my papers and reached out to them, saying:
“Before I begin, take a look around you. Go ahead, take a good look! This place is full, full of people of different faiths, different walks of life. How amazing it was to process down this aisle and turn around and see all of you. This is truly the real answer to fear and hate. All of you, here, right now. It’s you.”
We cannot undo evil, but we can undo its effect on us with enough care and enough time and enough hope. Together.