Tuesday's terrorist attack – the worst in America's history – has been heralded as an act of war,but Christians and believers across the country are uniting to fight the battle on their knees.
Religious denominations all over the nation have called their congregations to prayer and action. The headquarters of these groups are urging members to give blood and donate money for relief efforts.
The national organizations are also asking local congregations to be open so that both church and community members will have a place to gather,support one another and pray.
Congregations of all denominations agree on the important role that church must play in assisting in the long-term recovery efforts.
Tim Addington,executive director for ministry advancement at the national headquarters of the Evangelical Free Church of America in Minneapolis,said prayer has been the church's primary response.
“We believe prayer is the most powerful thing we can do because we believe God acts when his people pray,” he said. “Prayer is key for healing,not only after this situation but for the many moral and spiritual issues we as a nation face.”
Addington said local Evangelical Free congregations are being asked to pray specifically for the people affected by the violence,the rescue workers and the other spiritual issues the country faces.
Almost 1,300 churches make up the Evangelical Free Church of America and they share a bible-backed belief that God will heal his people's land from sin and wickedness if they humbly pray and seek him.
“We believe this is a wake up call for our nation to turn to God for relief from many of the situations we face,” he said. “He is the ultimate source of healing for our individual souls as well as the south of our nation.”
The Evangelical Free Church headquarters has also established a fund so that its congregations could donate money to the relief causes through the church.
Addington said he felt President George W. Bush supported the church's efforts and recognized the role the church plays during this type of situation.
“Regardless of what administration is in power,when there is a true national emergency,people do turn to the church for answers,” he said.
David Simpson,a United Methodist reverend,said the church planned to work with the federal government during the relief efforts.
“The work of providing services can't be done by one group alone,” he said. “And the fact that the president has made the faith-based initiative one of his key agenda items has been an encouragement because it shows the president understands that it needs to be a partnership between the federal government and faith organizations.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief,an organizational established several decades ago,is designed to respond to national disasters like this.
UMCOR is already in the process of consulting with other churches,relief groups and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as to how to best offer their services in the New York rescue effort.
The Rev. Dean Snyder,director of communications in the Washington area for United Methodist Church,said UMCOR has the reputation of being the last group to leave a disaster area and traditionally works through churches to determine the deepest needs of a community.
In the Washington-Baltimore area,Snyder said more than 125 United Methodist churches have opened their doors for prayer and community meetings.
“This is a time when people turn God-ward,” Snyder said. “We don't care if folk haven't been in a church before. That's not the issue. If they need the support of a spiritual community we want to be welcoming.”
Snyder said he's received several e-mails from pastors and the common sentiment is that people just wanted a place to gather so that they didn't have to be alone at home.
Other pastors shared stories of intimate conversations between community members as they talked about their reactions to Tuesday's tragedy.
“These are feelings we shouldn't have to struggle with alone,” he said. “Different denominations and different groups have different things they emphasize,but in a situation like this we're all one people of prayer and faith.”
As the devastating effects of the attack continue to come to light,Seventh Day Adventist media relations director Celeste Ryan,said the national organization was encouraging its members to keep praying,believing and hoping.
“When there is a horrific,horrific attack on our county,this is the time when we have to hold onto our faith,this is the time we have to support one another,this is the time to have our churches open,” she said.
Seventh Day Adventist headquarters,located in Maryland,has also called its congregations to prayer,urged members to give blood,planned special church services and organized a team of trained pastors and church members to provide grief counseling services in New York.
Sunday,the church's president will deliver a sermon via satellite to congregations in North America. Ryan said the message would be centered around the tragedy of the terrorism and the importance of the church in the aftermath.
“We don't believe that God causes these things to happen,” she said. “But as Christians we say that you've got to trust God in the good times and you've got to trust God in the bad times.”