By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Fewer than 24 hours after bombs wrought havoc on the Boston Marathon, the downtown Cathedral Church of St. Paul opened its doors for prayer and Eucharist in the heart of a heartbroken city.
“Being a church of the community, a place for the homeless, a place where people come to pray during the week … we knew we had to respond” to the bombings, said the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts. “To a moment of great sorrow, we needed to provide some sense of hope and light.”
More than 100 worshipers turned out for the 12:15 p.m. vigil on Tuesday. Some were Episcopalians in town for the marathon. Others were Bostonians or visitors from various faith backgrounds. For all, it was a time to seek God — through silence, prayer, hymns, proclamation and sacrament — even as police searched for clues just steps away in what had become a cordoned-off, 15-block crime scene.
For Kelly Daugherty and Betty Lou Morrow of Canby, Oregon, worshiping at Trinity Church in Copley Square is a highlight of their Boston Marathon experience each year. But by Monday night, Trinity was off-limits as detectives scoured the neighborhood. Trinity steered the shaken to the cathedral, and the Oregonians were glad they went.
“We needed this today,” an emotional Daugherty told Harris on the cathedral step after the service.
“We all needed this,” Harris told him. “We all need to remember that life is precious. It doesn’t end. Give me a hug.”
Worshipers grieved for victims of the attack, which left three dead, at least 14 without limbs, and more than 170 wounded. But the Rev. Christina Rathbone led them in her homily to recognize other truths as well.
“All the darkness, fear, and hatred are real,” Rathbone said after the service. “But they are not the only reality. There is also hope and love.”
St. Paul’s vigil was one of several held in Boston, including an interfaith service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where President Obama spoke on Thursday.
Episcopal outreach to those deeply affected by the bombings continues. At Boston Medical Center, which received 23 bombing victims on Monday, the Rev. Jennie Gould is helping console patients, families, and staff as a staff chaplain. She’s a priest of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Image: Interior of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston. Adam Lenhardt/Wikipedia