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Neighborhood spirit kindled in N.Y. area, Baptists report

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–The members of Madison Baptist Church near Newark, N.J., have noticed a different attitude developing in the neighborhoods of their city following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

Marie Pusateri said she noticed the difference in her West Orange, N.J. neighborhood.

“Some of the neighbors came knocking on my door and said they were having a prayer circle in the street and wanted to invite me to come,” said Pusateri, who watched the devastating attack from her office tower in Newark. “I said, ‘Our street? The same street where no one talks to anyone?’ I couldn’t believe it.

“Our neighbors went door to door and we had prayer in the streets,” said an incredulous Pusateri.

Marty Pittman, minister to families at Madison, said Southern Baptist churches will have a unique opportunity to reach out to the people of New York and New Jersey in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s been interesting to see the community coming together to pray and seek God and to share their incredible stories of survival,” Pittman said.

She related the story of church member Rick Meriwether, who worked at the World Trade Center, but on the morning of the attack found himself running late. He never made it to the office that morning.

Out of 25 church members who work in the WTC complex, only one suffered injuries in the tragedy. Lisa Warren was in the area when one of the towers collapsed. She was trampled in the rush to escape from falling debris. Warren’s injuries were not life-threatening.

Pittman said Madison Baptist has opened its doors throughout the crisis, providing a place for individuals to pray throughout the day. In three weeks, the church will sponsor an American Red Cross blood drive.

The volunteer spirit at Madison Baptist was most evident on Sept. 15 when a handful of church members drove into the city to serve food at a park on East Seventh Street.

Despite a maze of closed streets and massive traffic tie-ups, church members followed through on their commitment to East Seventh Baptist Church to help serve food to the neighborhood.

About 150 people dined on sandwiches and fresh fruit under the shade trees of Tompkins Square Park, nearly 20 blocks from the WTC disaster site.

Arthur and Priscilla Boynton came to Madison Baptist in 1993 and they both love the Christ-centered community ministries.

“This is what it is all about,” said Boynton as he extended a greeting to his “dinner guests.”

Boynton was at his A.I.G. office four blocks from the WTC when the blast happened. He was evacuated from the area on a ferry, along with three other Madison church members.

Pittman said a distinct spiritual opportunity is emerging through the New York disaster. She said it is no coincidence that the Beth Moore Bible study being taught at the church dealt with the question of whether a person believes in God or believes God.

“We have had a long discussion on that,” Pittman said.

Meanwhile, church members like Pusateri said the attitude changes over the past few days can be explained.

“It gave our nation a chance to see that we were so busy and so involved in ourselves,” she said. “It was ‘me’; now it’s ‘we.'”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SERVING OTHERS and NEW ATTITUDE.

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  • Todd Starnes