Those of us who stood in line alongside Franklin Square in the South End of Boston hoping to gain admission to the interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Thursday had little idea of the inspiration and feeling of solidarity that lay ahead.
We knew the service was being attended by religious, city, state, and political leaders, including President Obama, but it wasn’t until the first speaker, Liz Walker, a former TV news anchor and now a minister at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, came forward to open the proceedings, that we were swept into the spirit of the occasion.
Ms. Walker began by asking an age-old question that she said arises too often these days: “How can a good God allow bad things to happen?” She admitted she didn’t have all the answers, but countered with an even firmer declaration: “This is what I do know. God is here, in the midst of this sacred gathering, in this sanctuary and beyond, [among] people of different faiths and different races – strangers bound first by loss and pain, but now clinging together in growing strength in a city that has always faced the darkness head on ... God is here.”
And as Walker was followed by spiritual leaders from the Greek Orthodox Church, Temple Israel, and the American Islamic Congress, among others, that message about God’s might and healing power grew stronger.
Mr. Obama based his remarks on a well-loved passage from the Bible’s book of Second Timothy: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (II Timothy 1:7, New International Version). He also called for the endurance spoken of in Hebrews 12:1, in which we are called on, as he put it, “To push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race.”
And we do that, the president said, because of who we are, and “because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water.” He continued: “Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be – that is our power, that is our strength.”
Speaker after speaker focused on the healing that flows from unity of thought, not just in times of crisis, but in every aspect of daily life, which happens to be a topic dear to the heart of the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy. She called for greater spiritual unity under the control of God, the one divine Mind, when she wrote: “The necessity for uplifting the race is father to the fact that Mind can do it; for Mind can impart purity instead of impurity, strength instead of weakness, and health instead of disease. Truth is an alterative in the entire system, and can make it ‘every whit whole’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 371).
People from many parts of the world were among those who came to the cathedral on Thursday morning seeking wholeness. Even those who had lined up for several hours and failed to get seats hunkered down without complaint, over smart phones and radios to listen to the service and join in the prayers.
Hearts were lifted on a spring morning on which flawless sunshine replaced any lingering smoke, and Bostonians – reinforced by the healing compassion of people around the world – were reassured that God is indeed here.