- (Photo: REUTERS/Robert Deutsch)
Crying out in repentance and for a renewed spirit of service and love, leaders from the Christian community in New York City gathered over the weekend to implore the faithful to shake off the spirit of lukewarmness and to renew the relationship believers of every stripe shared in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
Speaking to a crowd of about 200 people sitting under an unrelenting sun at the East River Park amphitheater on the city's Lower East Side, ministers and musicians rallied God's people to not get stuck on the tragedy of 9/11 but to instead focus on today, and the opportunities and blessings God has been bestowing upon the faithful.
"God was on the throne that day, and He's still on the throne today," said Louis A. Carlo, an associate pastor at Abounding Grace Ministries.
It was Abounding Grace Ministries, led by Richard Del Rio, that received the call to organize the event, titled "Reaching Out: A Sacred Assembly". The event's themes of remembrance, relationship, and renewal, were reflected in prayers for solidarity and engagement amongst churches in New York City.
Through scripture readings, prayers, and reflections, representatives from Abounding Grace Ministries, East Side Tabernacle, Primitive Christian Church, and Avenue of Hope Fellowship reflected on the tragedy of 9/11 and how it moved God's people to act.
Del Rio, founder and senior pastor of Abounding Grace Ministries, was also among the first group of clergy to reportedly arrive at ground zero within minutes of the second tower's collapse.
"It was on this same day that America came together as one nation," said Del Rio. "Political affiliations, racial conflict, and religious separations were all put aside because we realized we needed each other."
The minister continued, "Believers from all denominations came together and cried out to God. ... Differences were put aside as we all made ourselves available to serve and help. God made His presence known. Churches were full of folks who had lost loved ones. People who until then had no time or use for God were so broken, that the only one who could help them process their grief was God."
What moved Christians to stand up and reach out were faith and love, Del Rio said, "Two characteristics that cannot be legislated."
He added, "We also saw God's hand of mercy extended. Relationships and friendships were birthed that still remain. We had a keen awareness of how much we needed God and each other, and the importance of getting together, loving each other and being available [to one another]."
Some of the relationships that were forged within the Christian community and the passion and fervor that gripped believers in their desire to comfort and help those devastated by the terrorist attacks eventually waned, however.
Church attendance soon dwindled to pre-9/11 numbers, faith leaders soon refocused their attention to what was happening within their own walls, and years later, it seemed that New York City's Christian community had abandoned the love it had at first.
Carlo encouraged those in attendance at Saturday's meeting to do the works they did at first.
"Love the brother and sister beyond your church [walls]. Live out the deeper relationship of serving a broken world, of loving a broken people."
He added, "The world will know that [Jesus] is real and that we are His disciples by the love we share, and [how we] interact with one another."
"We also want to honor our God for not leaving us hopeless or abandoned," Del Rio reminded the crowd, citing Isaiah 30:25-26.
He said, "The rivers of living water flow from within the believer to minister life and healing to those in need and it was because of that day that many saw Jesus like never before."
"Reaching Out: A Sacred Assembly" was sponsored by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York and Awaken America Alliance.