From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Columbia crew's faith, courage remembered at National Cathedral

Date Fri, 7 Feb 2003 16:37:56 -0500

February 7, 2003


Episcopalians: Columbia crew's faith, courage remembered at 
National Cathedral

by Dwight Zscheile

(ENS) Vice President Dick Cheney, NASA Administrator Sean 
O'Keefe, Bishop John Chane, a local Episcopal priest and a rabbi 
were among those who paid solemn tribute to the crew of the 
Space Shuttle Columbia at a memorial service on February 6 at 
Washington National Cathedral. 

Speaking to an audience of nearly 1,500 grieving family members, 
NASA colleagues, members of Congress, dignitaries and the 
general public, Cheney saluted the courage of the Columbia 7: 
"Every great act of exploration involves great risk. The crew of 
the Columbia accepted that risk in service to all mankind." 
Cheney reiterated the nation's commitment to space exploration, 
pledging that "their greatest memorial will be a vibrant space 
program and new missions."

NASA chief Sean O'Keefe praised astronauts Rick Husband, William 
McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel 
Clark and Ilan Ramon as examples of "the best of the human 
spirit." While vowing to continue and strengthen NASA's shuttle 
program, he also acknowledged the limits of our scientific and 
technological endeavors. "Our hope is not ultimately a hope 
grounded in the progress of human achievements," said O'Keefe. 
"It is grounded in the sure and certain faith in a Creator who 
calls Rick, Willie, Michael, Kalpana, David, Laurel, Ilan -- and 
each of us -- by name."

Astronaut Col. Robert Cabana, USMC (Ret) sketched colorful 
personal anecdotes of each of the seven crew members, recalling 
a moment shortly before the crew boarded Columbia for takeoff in 
which this diverse group of men and women from different faiths 
and countries huddled, arms linked, in joint prayer.

Other participants included Brigadier General Charles Baldwin, 
deputy chief of chaplains, USAF, who delivered the homily, and 
Rabbi Warren Stone, president of the Washington Board of Rabbis, 
who read from the Book of Isaiah and offered prayers in Hebrew 
and English. 

Courage, commitment, curiosity

The Rev. Stephen McWhorter, vicar of St. David's Episcopal 
Church in Ashburn, Virginia, read from 2 Corinthians and prayed 
in thanksgiving "for the courage, commitment and curiosity that 
led them to reach beyond our world toward the stars." McWhorter, 
founding pastor of one of the nation's fastest-growing Episcopal 
congregations, spoke of the sacrifice that accompanies love, 
calling Jesus God's "ultimate gift of love to us, but it is a 
gift not without cost."

The Rt. Rev. John Chane, bishop of Washington, began his 
blessing with a quotation from the Book of Common Prayer: "O 
creator God, at your command all things came to be; the vast 
expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, moons, the 
planets in their courses and this fragile earth our island 
home." Chane went on to pray, "yet even in our sorrow, bless and 
strengthen our resolve to fly tomorrow even higher than the 
wings of an eagle have taken us today."

Patti LaBelle offered a heartfelt performance of "Way Up There," 
a song commissioned by NASA last year. She was joined by the 
U.S. Navy Band and the Air Force Singing Sergeants.

Attending the service were such luminaries as former astronaut 
and U.S. senator John Glenn, as well as hundreds of NASA 
employees, many of whom sat weeping quietly for their lost 

Across the front of the Cathedral were lined the flags of the 
United States, Israel and NASA. Near the conclusion of the 
service, the haunting notes of "Taps" reverberated through the 
limestone expanse from a lone bugler standing near the high 


--Dwight Zscheile is a member of Episcopal Communicators and 
executive pastor of St. David's Episcopal Church in Ashburn, 

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