From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Costs of New York Lutheran Disaster Response Effort High
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Fri, 21 Sep 2001 16:36:15 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 21, 2001
COSTS OF NEW YORK LUTHERAN DISASTER RESPONSE EFFORT HIGH
NEW YORK (ELCA) -- Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) may need as
much as $20 million over a three-year period to respond to a multitude
of human needs here in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade
Center, said the Rev. Gilbert B. Furst, LDR director, Chicago.
Furst made the comments during a visit here Sept. 18-19, one week
after the terrorist attacks. The visit included leaders of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod (LCMS), which work together in responding to domestic
disasters through LDR.
"This is probably more money than has been ever put in a disaster
in the history of the ELCA," Furst said. "This is a long-term effort,
the needs are deep, and they're incredible."
Resources from both the ELCA and LCMS will be needed. Funds will
be used for ministry to children, clergy support, counseling, emergency
assistance for families and educational resources on Islam, Furst said.
The programs will be administered through local Lutheran partner
agencies, he said.
As of Sept. 20, as many as 6,300 people are missing or dead in the
World Trade Center attacks, according to New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani. More than 200 people are missing or dead in the attack on the
Pentagon, according to the United States Department for Defense. Two-
hundred and sixty-six people died in the four airplanes that were
hijacked and crashed Sept. 11.
In New York, Lutherans know the names of more than 100 parents of
children or church members who are unaccounted for or dead as a result
of the attacks, said the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA
Metropolitan New York Synod.
At least 50 Lutheran schools and centers have at least one child
with a parent or immediate family member missing in lower Manhattan,
said Marlene Lund, executive director, Lutheran Schools Association of
Metropolitan New York/New Jersey. In addition, some 19 schools in New
York that serve Islamic children are asking Lutheran counselors for
help, she said.
As a result of the attacks, staff of Lutheran Social Services
(LSS) of Metropolitan New York are housed temporarily at the Interchurch
Center in Upper West Manhattan, said Anthony Harris, acting chief
executive officer. The LSS building, within two blocks of where the
World Trade Center towers stood, was damaged when falling debris knocked
a hole in the roof, he said.
LUTHERAN LEADERS, STAFF MEET TO OFFER MUTUAL SUPPORT
The Rev. H. George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, Chicago, and
the Rev. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president, St. Louis, traveled to
New York to show support for local church leaders. Bouman and the Rev.
David H. Benke, president of the LCMS Atlantic District, have been
working together to respond to human needs following the attacks. The
ELCA and LCMS leaders met at the Interchurch Center in Manhattan.
"You have no idea how heartening it is that you are here today,"
Bouman said. "We are doing this together as the church."
"We will work together to the maximum possible degree as
Lutherans," Benke said. "We'll focus on what unites us as we proclaim
Local church leaders should know that they are not alone, Anderson
said. The ELCA has received phone calls and messages of condolence and
support from Lutherans throughout the world in the wake of the attacks,
The church appreciates what the local leaders have done and is
sensitive to what they are experiencing, Kieschnick said.
The Lutheran leaders met with Stephen Unger, a chaplain with the
New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who has
been working the site of World Trade Center destruction since Sept. 11.
Unger, who attends an LCMS congregation on Long Island, described the
grisly scene for the Lutheran leaders. Later, he escorted Anderson,
Kieschnick, Bouman, Benke and LDR representatives for an exclusive visit
to the World Trade Center site for a first-hand look at the rescue and
After the site visit, Furst said one thing he will remember is
the smell in the air.
"I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death" he said
in an interview. "That was the heaviest moment I think -- to realize the
depth of loss, to see a seven-story pile of twisted girders and steel
and other kinds of building materials. Those buildings stood 110
stories high and they were compressed in this pile. It was very tragic.
It was a war zone in the worst war movie you ever could imagine."
The force of the twin towers' collapse, which left the structure
in a pile of rubble, was an image Anderson said he would remember.
"I was also struck by how needed the chaplains were at the site,"
Anderson added. "They were ministering to police and fire personnel who
were working through the rubble." FBI, police and fire personnel also
expressed deep appreciation to the Lutheran leaders during the site
visit, Anderson said.
LEADERS AND MEMBERS GATHER TO SHARE STORIES, PRAY AND WORSHIP
Lutheran clergy and members from the ELCA and LCMS met together
Sept. 18 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in
Manhattan. They shared information, prayed and worshiped together, in a
rare show of unity between the two Lutheran denominations. Also
attending were at least five ELCA synod bishops from nearby synods and
several LCMS district presidents.
Kieschnick told the pastors that one of their greatest challenges
is to help people who want to close this chapter in their lives. "Your
challenge is to help people who want closure, but won't have a body to
place in a grave," he said.
In his remarks, Anderson urged the pastors to take care of
themselves and realize they cannot do everything for everyone. Each
should make time for "distance and rest," he said.
"Pace yourselves," he said. "This will be a long struggle." The
church must also be a place of calm and restraint in communities, he
"Everything is connected and nothing is connected," Benke said at
worship, adding the differences that separate the ELCA and LCMS "seem so
"Nothing will separate us from the love of Jesus Christ," he said.
In his worship reflection, Bouman said it is important for people
not to seek vengeance for what happened. And, any pastor who thought his
or her work was not needed should not believe that anymore.
"It may take the biggest act of faith you can ever work up to be
behind the [altar] table, or in the pulpit or in the narthex, but this
world needs you," Bouman said.
"It is good to be together today," he concluded. "I have yearned
for this. Know how much you are cherished and loved."
In an interview, Bouman said that ELCA and LCMS members and
organizations in New York have a long history of working together. But
for every church member in the city, things will be different.
"This is really a defining moment for the church, and we have to
step up," he said. Bouman expressed appreciation for the many messages
of support the synod has received.
"It's important for people to know that we're still reacting, so
we don't know what we're going to need," Bouman said. "So, all these
wonderful pledges of support are received as prayers." Bouman promised
to "reach out" to the church with specific requests for help when those
are clearly known.
ATTACKS AFFECT ARABIC LUTHERAN CONGREGATION
During the Sept. 19 meetings, the Rev. Khader N. El-Yateem, pastor
of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Brooklyn,
expressed great concern for members of his small congregation. He said
he has spoken with many members who will not leave their homes because
they are terrified of retributions for the attacks. Arab Christians and
Muslims in the United States "mourn with America," he said.
"I'm just asking them to stay calm and not to respond to anybody
who makes remarks against them," El-Yateem said in an interview.
Members have been asked to report specific threats to the police or the
district attorney, who is working closely with the Arabic community in
New York, he said. Keeping everyone calm is a focus of El-Yateem's
"We are one body of Jesus Christ," he said. "Lift us up, hold us
in prayer and share [information] that not all Arabs are terrorists, and
there is good and bad in every community."
El-Yateem said he is working with members to be "confident" to
resume their normal lives, return to work and send their children back
to school. "That will remain our main concern at this time," he said.
-- -- --
For a video news release with this story, go to
http://www.elca.org/co/nbews/video.index.html on the ELCA's Web site.
To connect to a variety of resources on responses to the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, go to the ELCA's home page at http://www.elca.org on
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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