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ZZZ-RETIRED Session Plan for Covenant Groups: People of Faith Respond to September 11, 2001

Resources from the Rev. Lynn Strauss, Associate Minister, River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bethesda, MD, for the First Anniversary of September 11th

Opening Words

One thing that comes out in myth is that at
the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation.
—Joseph Campbell

Chalice Lighting

Let us share a moment in silence to open our hearts and to hold with compassion all the suffering, all the fear, all the hate, all the love, all the connection; that has followed on the tragedy of September 11th last year.


Note: It is recommended that the facilitators spend time with this reading and these questions in advance of the covenant group meeting and that they prepare by engaging in their own spiritual practice before leading the session.

"The Dead of September 11"

By Toni Morrison
Written September 13, 2001

Some have God's words; others have songs of comfort for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would like to speak directly to the dead-the September dead.

Those children of ancestors born in every continent on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas… born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles, wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes, feathers, and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about nations, war, leaders, the governed and ungovernable; all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil-wanton or studied; explosive or quietly sinister, whether born of a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge my language of hyperbole; of its eagerness to analyze the levels of wickedness; ranking them, calculating their higher or lower status among others of its kind.

Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts. Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be seduced by blitz.

To speak to you, the dead of September, I must not claim false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say-no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become.

And I have nothing to give either-except this gesture, this thread thrown between your humanity and mine: I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through the darkness of its knell.

Reflective Questions

  1. Morrison lifts up the diverse heritage of the people who died on that tragic day last year; can we briefly name the origins of our ancestors?
  2. Have the events of September 11th and/or its aftermath been in any way clarifying for you?
  3. Morrison's words have a confessional quality, why is that important?
  4. She speaks of the "thread thrown between your humanity and mine", is there something you can give (symbolically or otherwise) that affirms connection and brings hope to humanity?

Silent Meditation

Likes and Wishes

(What did you like about our time together? What did you wish might have been different?)

Closing Words

"If a way to the better there be, it lies in taking a full look at the worst."
—Thomas Hardy

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