“This will be a nationwide coast-to-coast linkup to have prayer. Of all the times, America needs prayer,” said Warren as reported by the Christian Post.
Details are still being formulated for the “Hope and Freedom” services, a Saddleback Church spokesperson told the Christian Post.
A few blocks away from where the Twin Towers fell, the megachurch pastor plans to conduct part of the service from Lower Manhattan Community Church, a congregation formed in response to Sept. 11. The Saddleback church plant, which meets in an elementary school, commemorates Sept. 11 on the first Sunday in September every year.
The service is in response to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on a clergy-led prayer during the city’s 9/11 anniversary commemoration.
“The mayor’s office says the annual event focuses on relatives of Sept. 11 victims and has never included clergy invocations. Bloomberg has said it would be impossible to include everyone who would like to participate,” wrote Rachel Zoll, religion reporter for the Associated Press.
Individuals scheduled to participate include police and fire chaplains who work with 9/11 families, Zoll wrote. Six moments of silence are planned for personal and religion introspection.
“Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate, we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died,” said Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, AP reported.
Many New York-area religious leaders agree, but the ban has raised the ire of Christian conservative groups such as the Catholic League, American Family Association and the Family Research Council, which has a posted a petition on its Web site demanding that the mayor allow prayer and clergy to be part of the event because the plan “is not only offensive to the families of victims, but strangely overlooks the role that faith played in bringing healing to countless lives.”
The conservative American Center for Law and Justice also posted a letter online to convince Bloomberg to reverse his decision.
“The move is deeply offensive to the many Americans who find solace and healing in prayer,” wrote chief counsel Jay Sekulow in an editorial published Monday in USA Today. “For many, 9/11 is not a distant memory. It’s still very real. Many face day-to-day struggles to cope with the loss of loved ones.”
“In light of the power of prayer, its comforting effect on those suffering from the devastation of 9/11, and the prominent place prayer holds in our nation’s history, it is disconcerting that Mayor Bloomberg has decided to exclude clergy — of all faiths — and thus prayer from the 9/11 10th anniversary memorial service at Ground Zero,” wrote Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ executive director and a Washington Post blogger. . “Clergy of all faiths, and even those who share no faith, have urged Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his decision.”
Ryan Holladay, leader of Lower Manhattan Community Church and the son of Saddleback Church’s associate pastor Tom Holladay, told the Christian Post, the memorial services broadcast through live webcast, will “give people an opportunity to process the anniversary from a spiritual perspective.”
“It wasn’t just a national or civic tragedy, it was a spiritual tragedy, and we want to support people as they work through it. 9/11 left a spiritual vacuum behind for many people. We want to fill that vacuum with God’s love,” he said.”