by Joe Rutter
In the fall of 2002 I traveled to New York City to be with a friend who I worked with at OSU before she moved to NYC in the late 90s. She worked for a consulting client in 2001 that had their headquarters in the World Trade Center, and her apartment was no more than three blocks from the Twin Towers. The morning of 9/11 she had an 8am meeting uptown and was not downtown when the planes hit the buildings. In that one morning her work, her house, her social connections were all destroyed. When I visited one year later it was still very evident how damaging to life there the attack had been.
I mention this in connection with the news about the Wexner Center for the Arts cutting its budget because I see some parallels between 9/11 and the pandemic, particularly in how we as Christians and our church in particular are being called to service.
My friend is not particularly religious and does not share my interest in visiting churches, so that first Sunday morning I made my own way down Park Ave to Saint Bartholomew’s, a church I’d long admired but had never visited. The service was wonderful and the worship space oddly both magnificent and somehow intimate. Afterwards they invited people from the coffee hour to attend a session on faith in a post 9/11 world, and I grabbed a second cup and headed to the parish hall.
It was a wonderful experience. In that single day of 9/11, thousands of people like my friend lost their livelihoods, and in the changes that occurred afterwards millions were impacted. Saint Bart’s was not attempting to solve all the problems but it had developed a ministry that started by exploring how faith and a loving community can help us survive and navigate the worst of times, and that folks willing to listen and share can generate circles and waves of healing and recovery. They offered workshops on recomposing resumes, building up a network for finding opportunities, obtaining suitable clothes for interviews (many downtowners, like my friend, lost everything due to the massive toxic clouds of dust from the buildings collapsing), and finding health services, especially for trauma and emotional assistance, as well as substance abuse and mental health. It was inspirational.
Our current disaster is slow moving, national, even global in its impacts, and difficult to imagine as offering any ministries opportunities, but I know they exist.