NYC church opens con­test to give 9/11 ser­mon


Lead­ers of a chapel near ground zero that be­came a sanc­tu­ary of con­so­la­tion af­ter the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks are launch­ing two na­tional writ­ing com­pe­ti­tions to foster rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, in­clud­ing one that will al­low the win­ner to de­liver an orig­i­nal ser­mon on Sept. 11.

The Parish of Trin­ity Church, which in­cludes St. Paul’s Chapel, will award one prize for preach­ing and six for sto­ry­telling in mem­ory of the tragic day.

Trin­ity’s rec­tor, Rev. Dr. Wil­liam Lupfer, said the idea for the writ­ing com­pe­ti­tions came about be­cause visi­tors to the World Trade Cen­ter site still strug­gle to make sense of the at­tacks, more than a decade later. But the com­pe­ti­tions are meant to ad­dress more than 9/11.

“Com­mu­ni­ties are hav­ing im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions about vi­o­lence, racism, and ha­tred, and how we work to­wards heal­ing,” Lupfer said. “St. Paul’s is a place of hope for mil­lions of peo­ple, and this year we want to com­mit to ask­ing what rec­on­cil­i­a­tion looks like now, in this world, at this time.”

Lupfer said the sto­ry­telling and preach­ing prizes ad­dress the mat­ter from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, one sec­u­lar and one the­o­log­i­cal.

The Epis­co­pal church, known as “The Lit­tle Chapel That Stood,” is di­rectly across from the World Trade Cen­ter but was un­scathed when the at­tacks brought down the twin tow­ers. It was turned into a makeshift shrine and be­came a place of rest and re­newal for vol­un­teers and re­spon­ders. To­day, tourists from around the world flock to the house of wor­ship where a num­ber of Sept. 11-re­lated ar­ti­facts are on dis­play, in­clud­ing me­mo­rial ban­ners from around the world.

The win­ner of the Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Preach­ing Prize will de­liver an orig­i­nal ser­mon dur­ing a spe­cial ser­vice at St. Paul’s on Sept. 11. The ser­mon must deal with rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ad­dress the texts of Isa­iah 2:1-4 and Matthew 18:21-35 — texts Lupfer hoped would chal­lenge ap­pli­cants “to con­sider what rec­on­cil­i­a­tion means.”

The Matthew read­ing deals with for­give­ness while Isa­iah calls for a fu­ture with­out war, where peo­ple lay down their spears for plow­shares.

The Songs and Sto­ries Prize will be awarded to six in­di­vid­u­als for orig­i­nal sto­ry­telling, also on the theme of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. The win­ners will de­liver their prose or poem be­fore a live au­di­ence at the chapel on the eve of Sept. 11.

The sto­ry­telling en­tries must be true, of a per­sonal na­ture and never be­fore pub­lished.

The win­ners also will re­ceive US$100 each and be in­vited to a free sto­ry­telling work­shop to hone their sto­ry­telling skills on Aug. 29. The com­pe­ti­tions are open to peo­ple of all faiths 18 years and older.

“The goal is to en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tion about rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, to open wide the con­ver­sa­tion and bring in as many voices in a cre­ative fun kind of en­vi­ron­ment,” said Emily Wach­ner, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for Trin­ity’s liturgy, hos­pi­tal­ity and pil­grim­age.

The parish hopes to make the com­pe­ti­tions an an­nual event.

“Peo­ple are hun­gry for hope­ful sto­ries from those who have walked the walk and talked the talk of peace­mak­ing,” Lupfer said. “I hope that these sto­ries start con­ver­sa­tions, and also that they move peo­ple to ac­tion.”

En­tries must be sub­mit­ted be­tween July 1 and Aug. 1 and will be re­viewed by a com­mit­tee of re­li­gious and lay peo­ple.

Win­ners will be an­nounced by Aug. 24.


A young­ster looks at a me­mo­rial of public ar­ti­facts on dis­play in­side St. Paul’s Chapel, Thurs­day, June 25.

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