By Brian Knox and Lydia Tilbury Hair
Orgininally published Thursday, September 13, 2001
When a tragedy on the scale of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks hits the nation, it has a way of bringing the country, and neighbors, together to do what may be the only thing to do.
That was what nearly 100 citizens did Tuesday at noon at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur.
Filing into the church, the sounds of the church organ playing hymns such as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” “The Church’s One Foundation” and “We Stand on the Promises” seemed to encourage Christians to stand firm in their faith in the face of disaster.
“We have to remember who is ultimately in control, and it’s God,” one woman said. “He is in control. It’s hard for us to feel that way in light of what is happening, but He is in control.”
One woman stood and shared a word of scripture from Second Chronicles, chapter 7, verses 14-15.
“If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place,” she read.
Many people in the audience asked for prayers for family members or friends that were in the New York area or in Washington D.C. while others asked for prayers for government leaders and for America to stand strong together.
At one point a boy, probably not more than 12 years old, stood silently before beginning to speak. His words quickly dissolved into tears as he tried to express his fear and pain for the victims.
During the service people stood and sang “America the Beautiful.” They fought back tears while singing the patriotic song on a day the nation was witnessing one of its darkest days.
“It’s still our vision,” pastor Rusty Hedges said of our nation. “A place of sanctuary, a place of freedom, a place that is indeed beautiful.”
After reading scripture asking for protection from evil and justice for evil-doers, Hedges spoke of the importance of resisting the feelings of vengeance.
“We are overwhelmed often with feelings of anger or vengeance. And yet I think God calls us to rise above that. Which is not to say that it is not our hope that there will be a vigorous and effective response from this tragedy. But that we would not be drawn into one act of vengeance to follow another,” he said.
He read from Romans, chapter 12, verses 9-21, ending with verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Hedges said it is important that the attack does not cause Americans to be drawn into violence and destruction.
“I would hope that we might through our prayers and our actions not be overwhelmed by evil, but through our faith be able to overcome evil with good. That our way may be a way of peace, of healing, of forgiveness, to lead the way toward some reconciliation in the hopes that this day would never come again,” he said.
Roy Faubion, pastor of Father’s House said that it is important to remember that terrorism such as this is something the Israeli and Palestinian people live with day after day and that this was a time for America to stand with Israel.
“This is war. The terrorists have attacked America,” Faubion said. “If this won’t get us to our knees, I don’t know what will.”
At the end of the service, many sat in silence in the pews while others gathered around the altar to pray together. Some wept, while others buried their head in their hands.
One elderly couple left the church, still wiping away tears. For Thomas and Edna Brumett, Tuesday’s attack brought back memories of the tragedy to which it is now being compared.
“I had a brother at Pearl Harbor,” Mrs. Brumett said, having to stop and compose herself. “This is the same sort of outrage. I didn’t know for three weeks what had happened to my brother and this is the same torture for those who don’t know what has happened to their loved ones today.”
Mr. Brumett, a World War II veteran said, tears steaming down his weathered face, that the feeling in America Tuesday was the same feeling that Americans had on Dec. 7, 1941. “It is just terrible, terrible,” he said. “This brings back so many memories.”
Jo Ann Springer of Decatur seemed, like many Americans, to still be in shocked disbelief. “I am just dumbfounded,” she said. “This is the last thing I would have expected. How did it happen? I just hope President Bush makes the right decision.”
One man seemed to express the thoughts of everyone there.
“We need to hold up our officials to the Lord, not criticize them and pray that they would make the right decisions and be there for each other.”
On Tuesday, it was clear that these citizens were there for each other and for their country. And far from downcast, they were determined and if anything, strengthened in their faith.
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.