U.S. Navy Ensign Megan Hallainan, stationed aboard the destroyer USS Winston Churchill in the Atlantic Ocean, wrote this e-mail message to her father after Sept. 11. A UCC Navy chaplain in San Diego, Lieutenant Andrew P. Sholtes, forwarded it to United Church News. "It's the kind of story," says Sholtes, "that brings tears into our eyes who serve God at sea."
Well, we are still out at sea, with little direction as to what our next priority is. The remainder of our port visits, which were to be centered around max liberty and goodwill to the United Kingdom, have all but been cancelled. We have spent every day since the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and trying to make the best of our time. It hasn't been that fun I must confess, and to be even more honest, a lot of people are frustrated at the fact that they either can't be home, or we don't have more direction right now. We have seen the articles and the photographs, and they are sickening. Being isolated as we are, I don't think we appreciate the full scope of what is happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects.
About two hours ago the junior officers were called to the bridge to conduct ship handling drills. We were about to do a "man overboard" when we got a call from the LUTJENS (D185), a German warship that was moored ahead of us on the pier in Plymouth, England. While in port, the WINSTON S CHURCHILL and the LUTJENS got together for a sports day/cookout on our fantail, and we made some pretty good friends.
Now at sea they called over on bridge-to-bridge, requesting to pass us close up on our port side, to say goodbye. We prepared to render them honors on the bridge wing, and the Captain told the crew to come topside to wish them farewell. As they were making their approach, our Conning Officer announced through her binoculars that they were flying an American flag. As they came even closer, we saw that it was flying at half-mast. The bridge wing was crowded with people as the Boatswain's Mate blew two whistles—Attention to Port—the ship came up alongside and we saw that the entire crew of the German ship were manning the rails, in their dress blues. They had made up a sign that was displayed on the side that read "We Stand By You."
Needless to say there was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and we cut our salutes. It was probably the most powerful thing I have seen in my entire life and more than a few of us fought to retain our composure. It was a beautiful day outside today.
We are no longer at liberty to divulge over unsecure e-mail our location, but we could not have asked for a finer day at sea. The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and it has truly been the highest point in the days since the attacks. It's amazing to think that only a half-century ago things were quite different, and to see the unity that is being demonstrated throughout Europe and the world makes us all feel proud to be out here doing our job. After the ship pulled away and we prepared to begin our man-overboard drills, the Officer of the Deck turned to me and said, "I'm staying Navy."
I'll write you when I know more about when I'll be home, but for now, this is probably the best news that I could send you.
Love you guys.
Express our gratitude
We marvel at, and express our gratitude for, the courage of the rescue personnel who are risking their lives to save others. We are aware that members and friends from our congregations are among the missing. Our hearts ache for them and all who have been touched by these senseless acts. Out of the rubble our faith calls us to be healers in reknitting the ruptured fabric of our community.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black
New York Conference Minister
The Rev. John R. Deckenback
Central Atlantic Conference Minister
Seek refuge in love
The hour has come for us to demonstrate at the highest level our most extraordinary thought about Who We Really Are. There are two possible responses to what has occurred today. The first comes from love, the second from fear. If we come from fear we may panic and do things—as individuals and as nations—that could only cause further damage. If we come from love we will find refuge and strength, even as we provide it to others.
There is hope, healing
Be patient with yourself if you find your grief continuing longer than you thought it would. The nation may not be the same for a long time. Turn to scripture, to remember that God is grieving with us. The prophet Jeremiah gives us these words, "I wish my head were a well of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I could cry day and night for my people who have been killed." But there is a balm in Gilead; there is hope, there is healing. It's found in prayer, it's found in faithfulness to God, it's found in acts of kindness from one human being to another.
The Rev. Kelly Peters
Avon Lake UCC
Avon Lake, Ohio
‘Faith comes to our aid'
Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But, faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail.
Pope John Paul II
May this be a time for people of various cultures and religions and political ideologies to come together to eradicate the forces of violence and destruction.
The Rev. Russell Mitman
Pennsylvania Southeast Conference Minister
Ask God's blessing for all
It is not so much a time to rally as Americans but to rally as human beings, affirming, in whatever ways it may be possible to do so, our oneness as human beings, and asking God's blessing not only on America but on all nations and peoples.
The Rev. Jim Bundy
Be bold with our faith
In the days after Sept. 11, we were once again reminded of what we know all too well, of how interconnected one hatred, one oppression is to another. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, speaking on the 700 Club, blamed feminists, pro-choice and civil liberties groups, and homosexuals for the attacks on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon and the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania. Falwell has issued an apology of sorts for naming fellow citizens who believe differently than he, as the ones who led God to remove the "protective covering" over the USA which allowed the attacks to occur. ... President George Bush and other conservative Christian leaders as well as more liberal Christians have publicly distanced their faith from and criticized such thought. Likewise, may we be bold with our faith.
The Rev. Mitzi N. Eilts,
UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
We ... are in deep sympathy for the loved ones of all those who suffer from the catastrophes the intensity of which we can hardly imagine. May (God's) hand of healing and consolation be upon them each and everyone.
Luo Kwan Chung, Chairman
National Christian Three—Self Movement Committee
Han Wenzao, President
China Christian Church
Let us act in moral ways
What frightens me most about the reaction to this terrible tragedy is that we Americans will commit the same kinds of acts for which we condemn others. Violence brings on more violence. The histories of the Middle East and [Northern] Ireland should teach us the futility of that behavior. Don't misunderstand me. I want these terrorists brought to justice, but I also want us to act in moral ways, even when other people act without morality.
The Rev. Ralph Quellhorst
Ohio Conference Minister
Prayers from Southern Africa
We would like to assure you of our loving and prayerful thoughts at this trying time in America.
The Rev. Dr. Des van der Water
The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa
‘We share your grief'
In a country where the fear, anguish, and pain of war are seemingly permanent, we understand your hurting. We share your grief, confusion, and incomprehension. We too abhor this war that takes us further from Jesus' principles of justice and peace.
Colombian Mennonite Church
Unite in prayer, strength
We also call on our mission partners in the United States ... to unite in prayer, be the pillars of strength and wisdom in these times. We are confident of your continuing to be the channels of God's grace and strength. Our common journey of faith shall continue to bind us, and more so in this moment of anguish.
Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon, General Secretary
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
An estimated two million people have died in the past four years in the Congolese civil war. Their deaths, too, deserve our condemnation and mourning. More than a thousand children an hour die in the developing world as the result of preventable malnutrition. Their deaths, too, deserve our condemnation and mourning. Acting to protect these neighbors would be acting for our security. Indeed, pent up in the world's inequities and injustices is a potential for conflict that we can barely imagine. Attention to the inequities and injustices that afflict every neighbor is both in our national self-interest and faithful to the God of all the world.
The Rev. Michael Kinnamon
Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis