Every Sunday during a visitation to a congregation I host a forum. Among other things, I talk about signs of God’s grace. I indicate why I think it is an important spiritual discipline to take note of God’s presence; and then I mention signs of God’s grace that I have seen in the congregation. I then invite people to share their own experiences of God’s grace. The responses have been passionate, personal and powerful – and a couple of stories have brought me nearly to tears. This exercise – which is relatively new, tells me three things:
- God is up to a lot of healing, horizon expanding, reconciling and the transforming of lives;
- people are paying attention to what God is up to;
- our churches are safe places for people to share their stories.
Last Tuesday, on the eleventh anniversary of September 11, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, Imam W. Deen Shareef of Masjid Warid ud Deen in Irvington and I went to Penn Station Newark early in the morning to pray. We wanted to honor the anniversary of 9/11, offer support to people traveling from one place to another and make a witness to peace and hope.
Aside from a few media people who were tipped off to our coming, most people weren’t prepared for our being there. We didn’t generate a lot of attention from the many commuters who were coming in and out of the station. We prayed. And while we prayed in English, Hebrew and Arabic from three different faith traditions – I felt a oneness in the Abrahamic tradition that I had never felt before. Ours was a common prayer to the one God who holds the human family together, and can perhaps help make the world a safer place. In a divided and chaotic world, that is a powerful witness.
And a sign of God’s grace.