This Sunday's religious services, nationwide, will be a little different, a little strained. It's hard to know what to do, exactly, with a Sunday morning, on Sept. 11.
My church, 15 miles from the Pentagon, will have a cake, decorations and fancier snacks than usual. Relatives and long-lost parishoners will come in from out of town, bearing gifts, laughing and reminiscing. The bishop is coming, and 11 teenagers — they were 3 and 4 when the planes hit, just old enough to remember it now — will be confirmed, an Episcopalian rite of passage into adulthood. There will be speeches half-mocking, half-affirming the confirmands. They'll smile in pictures next to their proud parents. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of our church and commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
They happen to fall on the same day.
The decision not to postpone the festivities took a lot of thought, “We're a group with a mission,” says the Rev. Stephen Edmondson, “to minister to a broken world. September 11th is part of the brokenness and the darkness. It helps us remember why we have churches.”
But it's more than that. This kind of complication is written into the religion. The liturgical calendar — our readings and special days planned out in cycles, centuries ago — means, as Stephen put it, “putting a bunch of things next to each other, and finding meaning in that. Considering how God is working in the complexity.” The calendar, the world and God have jumbled together for us a celebration and a mourning, just like every day, but bigger. Sept. 11 will be someone's confirmation day, someone's birthday, the day someone learns to run, the day someone falls. A community in McLean, Va., will try to find meaning. Simple as that.