Islanders Pray for Peace on Remembrance Day

September 11 Service Brings Worshippers from Many Faiths


While Americans braced against the threat of another war on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks that shook the nation, a group of Vineyarders gathered in a cozy chapel on Tisbury's Main street to pray for peace.

"Let us know there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection," said Carolyn Eddy, one of a half-dozen speakers.

Prayers came from Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Unitarian Universalists. Participants from around the Island recited meditations from Muslim, Baha'i, African and Native American faiths.

There was no American flag, no pledge of allegiance, no praise for the military. Those gathered opposed mobilization for a war with Iraq and disapproved of hostility toward Middle Eastern nations.

"I wonder if we've learned anything about being the richest nation in the world," said Unitarian Universalist Rev. Judith Campbell in her welcoming remarks. "I'm afraid we haven't.

"We don't need to look far to see poverty, anger or disenfranchisement," she said. "We can see it outside the Island food pantry - in our Brazilian brothers and sisters, in all those seeking a decent place to live on an Island they want to call home."

Those gathered did not seek answers to the prevalent questions of the day: what did the nation do to deserve such an attack; is the government prepared to protect its citizens; how are Americans different now. The 60 people crowded into the Unitarian Universalist society building Wednesday night instead simply sought a way beyond brokenness, and concluded that the path involved walking together alongside men, women and children from every religion in the world.

"When I watched the service at the National Cathedral last year, I noticed that different faiths were present," said Ms. Eddy, a Christian who joined in an interfaith journey with other Islanders last winter. "Certainly, there were more Christians, but all the faiths were there. I realized we needed to do it together."

As the wind howled outside the century-old chapel, the crowd sat and stood in calmed silence. Kanta Lipsky led the audience in a yoga breathing exercise, and Will Pfluger performed a musical meditation on guitar.

Three panelists - Herb Foster, representing Judaism, Carolyn Eddy, representing Christianity and Bruce Balter, speaking for Buddhism - ended a series of interfaith forums by sharing personal testimonies on how their religion helped them cope with grief following Sept. 11.

"Mine was a generation tempered by adversity and war - the Depression, World War II, Vietnam, the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Bobby, of Martin Luther King Jr.," said Mr. Foster as he started to discuss grief and the Jewish faith.

"Sept. 11 will and must remain in our minds," he said, "but we shall overcome."

He then led the crowd in a reading of the Kaddish Yatom - a Jewish prayer for the dead.

Ms. Campbell invited anyone to drop a pebble, symbolizing shared grief, in a bowl of water. The ripples, she said, reminds humans that every move has consequences.

"We'll return it to the ocean tomorrow, to the same water that touches all continents and all people with the prayer that we will one day truly be one people," she added.

Ms. Eddy then offered a personal testimony about how she found peace in her faith over the last year.

"When Sept. 11 happened, I was shocked and saddened, and I sought a place where I could be calmed. I remembered hearing in church that love cast out fear," she began.

Mr. Balter concluded the panel presentation with reflections of peace from the Buddhist faith.

"I was driving my car this morning, listening to the radio, and I heard Daniel Schorr say that we will probably return to the way we were," he said. "That does not reassure me. We're affected very much as we were a year ago.

"In Buddhism, you try and move away from anger, hostility, war and hatred," Mr. Balter said. "We try and move toward balance - toward wise action."

The service concluded with active and retired clergy and lay people from across the Island - Diane Headen, Mary Jane O'Connor-Ropp, Janet Holladay, Armen Hanjian, Michele Larerow, Robert Brightman and Alden Besse - read prayers and meditations from nearly every world faith.

Before Ms. Headen read from the Bible - I Corinthians, chapter 13 - she talked of losing former coworkers at the Pentagon in last year's attacks.

"I retired early from that office. I was not supposed to retire until April 1, 2002," she said. "My children told me ‘Mom, it wasn't your time to go yet.' "

A collection bowl for the Island Food Pantry drew $420, a $100 bill among the donations.

The crowd quietly feasted on bread and water to remember those not fortunate enough to afford such provisions.