Magazine article Anglican Journal

Attacks Swell Churches

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Attacks Swell Churches

Article excerpt

Canadian Anglicans held special services following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and thousands came, including many, from all accounts, who had not set foot in a church for a long time.

Many also grumbled about the mention of God at a special nationally televised commemorative service on Parliament Hill.

On Friday, Sept. 14, cathedrals and churches across the country held special services, several of them filled to overflowing with parishioners eager to show spiritual support to grieving U.S. neighbours. Churches were kept open for prayer and reflection all week. And at least one joint Anglican-Lutheran service was held.

However, eyeing national cathedral services in both the United States and England, some clergy and Anglicans expressed shock at the absence of an interfaith service instead of the secular commemorative service held on Parliament Hill.

At that service, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Celucci, figured large on the podium. But no clergy were visible. Government officials said they were seated in a special area reserved for important guests.

A government official defended the decision to keep God out of the service. "(It) was made at a senior level. It was a commemorative service as opposed to a religious service," he said.

Clergy for the armed forces were incensed, and fired off a letter of complaint to defense minister Art Eggleton, pointing out that the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) had been asked by the government for "appropriate protocol for a prayerful interfaith response to the terrorist attacks."

A government spokesperson noted that while only 25,000 had been expected to show up at that service, more than 100,000 attended.

Archbishop Terry Finlay of the diocese of Toronto, called that service "political correctness gone berserk."

Bishop Andrew Hutchison of the diocese of Montreal, and secretary to the ICCMC, said it was "an absolute absurdity in a pluralistic society to banish God from public life altogether. We all saw the wonderful show from the National Cathedral in the U.S. -- this from a country that professes to separate church and state. Here in Canada we don't have anything in our constitution separating church and state. Instead, God is banished by our politicians."

He added that in Montreal, there was an interfaith service at St. James United Church and that the church was so packed that people stood outside, listening to loudspeakers transmitting the bilingual service. …

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