DEERFIELD, Ill. (BP)–Who do you turn to when you need support in a time of crisis? Just look around you. You turn to those people.
And so, on Sept. 11, I found myself in the midst of 6,000 students, staff and faculty on the pristine lawn of the University of Notre Dame’s South Quad in South Bend, Ind.
I was there to attend a meeting, but the campus had basically shut down.
Our meeting room was locked up. The library and bookstore had clamped their doors. Classes were off.
Flying missile-planes had destroyed all normalcy and order in lower Manhattan and in Washington, D.C., so this disruption of routine in South Bend paled in comparison. But routine was off nonetheless.
So, what do you do then? You pray.
And who do you pray with? You pray with the people around you. And so there I stood, a Southern Baptist of three generations, looking to the eternal Jesus Christ amidst a sea of others, likely from all stripes of creed and confession, Protestant and Catholic, for help. And for comfort.
University President Father Edmund Malloy, addressing the massive gathering on the South Quad lawn, summed up the hanging cloud of confusion in his opening remarks: “From 8:45 I’ve been watching TV like many of you, listening to eloquent spokespeople and statesman trying to make sense of what happened. All I can do is to draw on the well of faith we share.”
That struck me as something significant. The well of faith to which he referred wasn’t some ambiguous, universalistic idea. He was speaking specifically of Jesus Christ and the Triune God. Now, there was a reference to the Virgin Mary that struck me strange. And I wasn’t so naive (nor so bold!) as to take part in the Eucharistic celebration. Also, I had a sense that something was off when a priest spoke of “receiving Christ” through the prayers and celebration of the Eucharist. I rejoiced to think that Christ was more present with me in my journey to this grassy chapel than he would be in any bread or wine. In fact, his presence had brought me to this place.
And so there I was, something of an “outsider” to the community. But yet there was a sense of welcome. We sang “Amazing Grace” and perhaps to the dismay of those around me I knew most of the words. But they didn’t scoff at my sound. There were other songs I didn’t know, but I recognized some words from Psalm 23. And the Scriptures read couldn’t haven’t comforted me more.
Mostly, there was a sense that all of us needed to be there. We needed to not be alone. We needed to know that there were others hurting, there were others with questions, others with loss. And there were others who drew from the same historic well of faith for peace.
So who do you pray with when you need to pray? Look around you. Pray with the people there, if they’re willing. Often God puts us in just the right places, so when we do look, we’ll be pleasantly surprised, and so they may be as well. I’m glad I turned to look on that afternoon, in that place, and felt led to pray. Because they were more than willing.
Roberts is a member of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield.