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Wrestling with questions of faith

BY PJ HELLER | NEW YORK | September 17, 2001

"We come together as people of faith, wrestling with the questions of faith."

—Rev. Robert Cornwall

From St. Patrick's

Cathedral in New York City to the First United Methodist

Church some 3,000 miles away in Santa Barbara, CA,

Americans gathered Sunday to pray and seek comfort in

the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade

Center and the Pentagon.

"We come together as people of faith, wrestling with the

questions of faith," said the Rev. Robert Cornwall

during an "interfaith service of prayer and coming

together" held Sunday night in Santa Barbara which

attracted a standing-room only crowd of several hundred

people. "We come together in the hope we can build a

better future."

Houses of worship across the nation were filled Sunday

as people continued to seek solace from Tuesday's

assault that destroyed the twin towers of the World

Trade Center and badly damaged a portion of Pentagon.

Terrorists hijacked U.S. commercial jetliners and

crashed them into the buildings.

An estimated 5,000 people are believed dead in the ruins

of the World Trade Center.

"We are not the same people we were prior to Tuesday

morning," said Cornwall, pastor of the First Christian

Church in Santa Barbara and president of the Greater

Santa Barbara Clergy Association. "Never again will we

be as innocent as we were five days ago."

That sentiment was echoed around the country in church

services and at candlelight vigils.

"America will never be the same," said the Rev. Cecil

Williams of Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San

Francisco. "Never."

"We have always managed to put a safe distance between

the violence and our homeland," noted Rabbi Richard

Shapiro of Temple B'nai B'rith during the interfaith in

Santa Barbara. "No longer."

Shapiro also expressed concern about government plans to

implement additional anti-terrorism measures, saying the

public should be watchful that they do not impact civil


"Be careful what you wish for," he said of those

supporting such measures.

The Bush administration has said it will ask Congress

for enhanced wiretap authority and other powers aimed at

stopping terrorism.

At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, more than

5,000 people -- including Mayor Rudy Giulani, New York

Gov. George Pataki, and United Nations Secretary-General

Kofi Annan -- attended a memorial mass.

Services were also held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church

in Oklahoma City, located about a block from the Murrah

federal building that was bombed in 1995. Special

services were also held there shortly after the bombing

in Oklahoma City.

One of the candlelight vigils held around the country

was on the campus of the University of California at

Santa Cruz, which is gearing up for fall classes to

begin this week.

"I share your shock, horror and worry," University

Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood said in a campus-wide


The university also said it would offer crisis

counseling to students and staff.

At services held across America, there were spoken and

silent prayers and singing of God Bless America. Some

people wore clothes emblazoned with the American flag or

were decked out in red, white, and blue clothing. Some

carried small American flags along with their hymn

books. Others wiped away tears.

The Santa Barbara interfaith service, sponsored by the

local clergy association, brought together religious

leaders from various faiths, including Sheik Abdur

Rahman, Iman of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara.

"We should have done this a long time ago," he said of

the interfaith gathering.

Rahman said he has received strong support from the

faith-based community. Some Muslims around the country

have been the targets of assaults in retaliation for

Tuesday's tragedy.

The terrorists attacks "violate Islamic teachings,"

Rahman said. "Islam respects the life of a human being

and holds it in highest regard.

"To kill one human being is like killing all mankind,"

he said of Islamic teachings in the Koran. "If someone

saves one life, it is like saving all mankind."

Related Topics:

When is public violence terrorism?

Terrorism wave proves challenging

Counseling, prayers offered in bombing wake

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