People walking down Boylston Street in Boston Thursday evening got a glimpse of life returning to the familiar as a congregation of the United Church of Christ hosted jazz worship service outdoors. Many joined in the first service held at Old South Church, located just beyond the finish line of the Boston Marathon, since it closed after the bombing on April 15.
"There were at least 200 people, and it was really a way of reclaiming the street and reminding ourselves that love is stronger than death," said the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister of the UCC Massachusetts Conference.
The church wasn't damaged in the explosion, but it doors remained closed until Wednesday afternoon. The Rev. Nancy Taylor, pastor at Old South Church, was in the building during the Boston Marathon when two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. The same street where worshippers gathered in song Thursday evening had to be cleared and closed 10 days ago by authorities.
While Taylor was unable to get to the church in the days after the bombing, she's hopeful the service helped citizens overcome the shock of the event. "The best thing is to heal and move on and to prove that the human spirit is so much better than a couple of really bad guys," Taylor said before the service.
The congregation has four worship services a week, and the 6 p.m. Thursday jazz service is one of them. Given the great weather, and the chance to be outdoors in one of Boston's most neighborhoods, it was an easy decision to hold the service outside so Old South and the public could share the moment.
"I was slated to preach that date anyway, but the point was going to be for Earth Day and Mission 4/1 Earth and the 'Climate Revival' event," Antal said. "So what an honor it was to join Nancy Taylor and her staff, and to be part of the first worship service since the street opened, and the coincidence of having it outside on a perfect spring afternoon."
"This notion of 'Boston Strong,' it's really something. I'm taking it in," Antal said. "We sang 'America the Beautiful.' And if you look through the verses, you see that they're very profound."
The love of the larger UCC community also helps. Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City, located near the the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, has reached out to Old South Church with thoughts and prayers written on a banner that hangs outside the sanctuary, on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets facing Copley Square.