9/11 Anniversary Services
As you know, the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the U.S.A. falls on this coming Sunday. Given the significance of this, it would be quite a pity if we didn’t take the opportunity to think through how our corporate gatherings and worship services might include elements that commemorate this event and bring the gospel to bear on it.
These are some of the things I’ve been thinking through for Sunday’s service at my church:
1. Find a way of getting your people to recall the events of 9/11. Can be as simple as getting chatter in the pews about where they were when they heard the news. Ideally it would be good to show some video or stills of 9/11. If you’ve got the skill, perhaps putting some John Piper ‘Don’t Waste Your Life‘ excerpts to the images would work well.
2. Include corporate confession. It’s so important that we’re reminded from Luke 13 that ‘unless (we) repent, (we) too will perish.’ As Piper said last week at ONE, our lives hang by a thread of divine mercy. This is time for personal and national confession.
3. Other intercessory prayers perhaps should have a global focus, with particular attention paid to the Middle-East and Islamic countries. It may be good to have different members of the congregation or leadership each focus on a specific prayer point or region in order to mix it up a bit. Or if your church is up for it, direct people to pray in groups around their seats/pews with sections praying for different parts of the world.
4. Include some Bible readings that really fit well with this mood of reflection, confession and intercession. Obviously you can go for the aforementioned Luke 13 passage about the tower of Siloam. My choice for Sunday is Psalm 90. I think it’s the perfect Psalm for this occasion. Reading it together or responsively could work really well.
5. Highlight the gospel. Speak about God’s plan to reconcile all things in Christ. Speak about forgiveness. Speak about grace. Speak about the cross. Speak about the resurrection. Speak about the final judgement and the new creation. Or alternatively, use music (see point below) to bring out some of these truths.
6. Use some appropriate songs. Two that come to mind are Hillsong’s You Hold Me Now and Keith and Kristyn Getty’s There Is a Higher Throne.
7. Finally, bring the elements together in a way that makes sense. Elements of Sunday services sometimes are jammed together incoherently or are simply disconnected bits done for the sake of putting them in. The elements ought to ‘tell a story’ and follow the dynamic of gospel-response. Tim Keller’s chapter in Worship by the Book is excellent on this kind of thing.
Just a quick note: we’re not doing a special sermon for 9/11 but continuing our series on Ephesians. All of the elements above will likely form the first half of the service before the sermon is delivered.
May your Sunday services be full of God’s glory and the experience of joy in him even in the commemoration of something so tragic.