Posted by: smstrouse | September 10, 2011

9/11 Observance: the Difference Between SF & NY

Yes, I know I live in a bubble. San Francisco is not New York. Still, I find it interesting that a place that is often called a ‘secular city’ will have a 9/11 observance that will include readings from Jewish, Baha’i, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Native American, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Secular?!

The 9/11 observance in Golden Gate Park tomorrow has been organized by the San Francisco Interfaith Council and the San Francisco Opera. The opera will perform Mozart’s ‘Requiem,’ which will be interspersed with the readings. I will have the privilege of representing Christianity by reading the ‘Prayer for Emergency Workers’ from the Lutheran worship book.

What is even more interesting is that this plan is so different from plans underway in New York. While here in San Francisco, religion will be front and center, in New York it will not.  Mayor Bloomberg decided that no clergy would be invited to participate and no prayers would be offered during the ceremony.

I can understand his decision. New York and San Francisco are very different cities. And in terms of 9/11, the East coast is very different from the West. Feelings about that day are much more intense in the East; wounds are still raw. And judging by the outcry from conservative Christian leaders about the lack of ‘Christian’ prayers, Mayor Bloomberg may have been right to avoid the controversy altogether. Maybe the interfaith organizations there were willing to sit this one out, after all the brouhaha over the plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero.

I know – it’s a different scene. What it makes me realize, however, is how proud I am of our city for the way we have chosen to observe this anniversary. And how proud I am of the entire Bay Area for all the ways that we embrace our diversity and work hard to learn how to know and respect one another.

Tomorrow will be a solemn day, with many different kinds of observances across the country. In all of their diversity, may they move us forward in the process of healing, reconciliation, and peace.

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