'This May Be Our Moment'


Sept. 9, 2011

Len Cowan is the pastor at the Church of the Nativity in Northboro. He joined the parish shortly before Sept. 11. He shares his memories of counseling his parish in the aftermath attacks as part of our week-long series, Sept. 11: A Day Of Reflection, A Decade Of Stories.

Pastor Len Cowan, of Northboro, is pictured here. (Gary Mott/WGBH)

I was aware of the fact that that they were very raw emotions that people had about this experience, especially coming as it did out of our state and out of our region. It involved dealing with people's anxieties about not only what happened, but what did this mean for us. Where is God in all this? Are we going to be safe? And questions about the security of our jobs. So it meant for me that all of a sudden it was a level of pastoring that, though I'd been involved with at other places where I had served, this ramped up things way sooner than I would've expected.

Because it created an environment in which there was a need for pastoring, and a need for us to kind of talk together as a community about what this meant to us. And also to reach out to our friends and neighbors. We can talk together about stuff, we can talk about life-and-death issues here cause that's what, that's what we can do, because of the God that knows us, and because of the God that’s involved in life-and-death issues.

But for our friends and neighbors who don't have the benefit of this kind of supportive community, we became the people that they could talk to.

Initially, it was kind of, “How can we access the spirit of God to be able to be helpful to those around us who needed compassion, who needed understanding who needed perspective?”

It would then be afterwards that there were questions that were raised about, “Well, where was God in the midst of the actual events themselves?” “Couldn't have God prevented this?”

You know, those kinds of questions. To which, you know, we answer honestly we don't know. We don't have an answer to that question. All we know is that God is present with us now in helping us to respond to the aftermath of things like this that are beyond our understanding as to how God's plan, God’s will, or God’s permission functions in a circumstance like that.

I had a picture of the towers themselves, as if I was kind of suspended over them, and watching what was happening to the people on the ground as this whole event was unfolding. And understandably, I saw a lot of people who were trying to get out the buildings, and were running for their lives. But then, in my mind's eye, I also saw these other people who were heading into the buildings. And these were the emergency personnel, just doing their job. But going the wrong direction, shall we say, going into harm’s way.

And that's the kind of people that I hope we can become. The kind of people who, when all hell is breaking loose, we’re the kind of people who are going to go into those situations, even at our own peril, to bring help and assistance to other people who are in a desperate situation. I can kind of remember thinking this may be our moment. Perhaps we can honor their memory by resolving that this is the kind of people we want to become.

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