Boston — As church bells ringing to “God Bless America” echoed through the city, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross the Boston Children’s Chorus sang “I Went Up to the Mountain,” Cardinal O’Malley relayed a prayer from Pope Francis, and the mother church of the Archdiocese of Boston welcomed pastors, rabbis, and imams of various faiths to a morning of prayer.
“Lord bless this broken-hearted city,” Reverend Liz Walker from Roxbury Presbyterian asked near the beginning of the service, which was also attended by Boston mayor Thomas Menino, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, former governor Mitt Romney, and President Obama.
But the overall tone of the interfaith gathering was less requiem than revival. Religious leaders mourned for the victims — 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old Lingzu Lu, and eight-year-old Martin Richard — but they also celebrated Boston’s bravery and America’s resolve.
“The Massachusetts licenses plate says ‘the spirit of America,’ and I pray the world right now this moment will look at us and see the true spirit of America,” said Bishop John W. Borders III, of the Morning Star Baptist Church of Boston.
The president’s fine speech spoke of the city of Boston’s unique place in American history, and predicted that next year’s Boston Marathon will reflect the city’s determination to heal. “Of that I have no doubt. You will run again,” the president said to a standing ovation. “Bet on it.”
The president and others invoked the scripture of 2 Timothy 4:7, assured that Bostonians will “keep the faith,” and “finish the race.”
Taking a walk around the crime scene last night I had my own interfaith experience. As I approached the cordon at Boylston Street (where a Port Authority PBA canteen had been set up to refresh law enforcement still working on scene), I saw a group of young men and women singing and chanting at the site of the informal memorial that had been set up for the victims. They turned out to be students from the nearby Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, here because a few of them had suggested gathering at the site to pray.
I didn’t catch the beginning, and unfortunately the very end of this song is cut off, but what I captured moved me greatly.