From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[UMNS-ALL-NEWS] UMNS# 541-New York sidewalk vigil is reminder of Sept. 11

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:22:17 -0500

New York sidewalk vigil is reminder of Sept. 11

Sep. 12, 2006 News media contact: Linda Bloom * (646) 3693759* New York {541}

NOTE: Additional stories, photos, video, audio and a logo for the series "9-11: Responding in Faith" can be found at

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Rev. William Shillady took his ministry to the streets.

As pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church, near the corner of Park and E. 86th Street in Manhattan, Shillady found that people in the community appreciated his presence - as well as the presence of others - on the busy sidewalk outside the building.

"Now people expect this of me," he said.

So, as they did on the first anniversary of 9/11 in 2002, the Park Avenue staff had a morning-long sidewalk remembrance service for the fifth anniversary.

The attacks are still very much on the mind of New Yorkers, according to a recent poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News. Two-thirds said they remained "very concerned" about the possibility of another attack on New York. Nearly a third said they think about Sept. 11 on a daily basis and nearly a third are still coping with changes brought about by the attacks.

Joined by his associate pastor, the Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, and a few other clergy - including the Rev. Noel Chin, Metropolitan New York District superintendent - Shillady gently offered a printed prayer card to passers-by. "Would you like to pray for one of the heroes of 9/11?" he would ask, holding out the card, each of which listed a name of someone lost that day.

"Thank you for being here five years ago for us," a passing woman told Shillady. Dressed in a black suit with an American flag lapel pin, she was on her way to a memorial service.

The Rev. Truman Brooks, pastor of Westchester (Pa.) United Methodist Church, left his Pennsylvania home at 5 a.m. to assist Shillady, arriving on the Upper East Side after a three-and-a-half-hour drive.

Brooks had participated in the denomination's listening post at the Park Avenue church about a week and a half after the Sept. 11 tragedy, talking with some 80 people seeking solace. "Five years ago, it was an amazing day of ministry," he recalled.

On this day, people hurried along the sidewalk to work or to school, but many took the prayer cards. One woman in a medical uniform murmured that she was late for work but then stopped to take the copy of Prayers from Ground Zero that Brooks handed to her.

Copies of the book, written by the Rev. James McGraw - who was pastor of John Street United Methodist Church, a few blocks from Ground Zero, in 2001 - were donated by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Another downtown pastor, the Rev. James K. Law, pastor of Chinese United Methodist Church, also was distributing the book to passersby. "I find this a very powerful resource," he said. "I hope a lot of people just keep this and use it."

A few people lingered as Lamar-Sterling rang a bell at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. to mark the times the planes hit the towers. The bell sat on a table covered with a cloth full of comments written with markers in the weeks after Sept. 11. Prayers followed those and later tolling of the bells.

The Rev. Elizabeth Perry, pastor of Lexington Avenue United Methodist Church, also on the Upper East Side, said she believes New Yorkers are dealing with the fifth anniversary in different ways.

"Some people are tired of hearing about it and think we should move on," she noted. But then she pointed out that a woman who stood next to her in front of the Park Avenue church as the bell rang at 9:03 a.m. had shared that she had been only three blocks from the towers when they fell and had feared she would not live to make it home to Brooklyn.

The Rev. Clayton Miller of Larchmont, N.Y., the retired council director of the denomination's New York Annual (regional) Conference, said area clergy had felt the effects of 9/11 and some had left the conference to pursue other goals.

After the attacks, he added, "I think clergy, like many other people, began to evaluate, 'Is this what I want to do with my life?'"

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or


United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at:


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