WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a remarkable show of unity, every house of worship along Washington's Embassy Row opened their doors to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and welcomed people of all faiths to celebrate their commonalities rather than their differences. Among them were Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Anne Golightly, who serves as an LDS public affairs director for the Washington metropolitan area, stood with an Episcopal bishop, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist chaplain to share a message of faith with the hundreds of people gathered at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
More than 1,000 people of faith attended the 9/11 Unity Walk on Sept. 8 to learn about different faith traditions by strolling down Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue, known for its embassies and other diplomatic offices, visiting different churches and opening up conversations with a wide variety of people.
The day started with a Muslim call to prayer at the Washington Hebrew Congregation temple and ended with St. Augustine’s Gospel Choir singing “Amazing Grace” on the grounds of the Islamic Center.
Unlike many other religions, Golightly said, the LDS Church doesn’t have traditional, formal “blessings” to share. Instead, she said, “I will share three requests to our Heavenly Father, our God, on behalf of all of us.”
The first plea was that God would allow those in attendance to “know without a doubt that you are there, that you love us and care for us. Help us to know that we can pray to thee anytime about anything that causes us to stumble or be troubled. Help us to know that you are sincerely interested in us, thy children. And help our children — all of our children of all faiths — to see that you are there.”
Second, she said, “Give us courage to stand as a witness of thee at all times and in all things and in all places, even if we are ridiculed or chastised for our beliefs. Help us to be strong.”
Her final plea was that God would allow “us to serve one other.” She quoted Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin when he said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God.”
Christina Tomlinson, a member of the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake and an LDS stake public affairs director, attended the event and served as a “faith guide” and answered questions about the church posed by the participants. “Most people were just happy to see the LDS Church involved and were very kind in the remarks,” she said.
In addition to the speeches, blessings and tours of various churches, the Hare Krishnas taught Christians how to chant and Sikhs showed groups how to tie turbans and shared a traditional family-style meal. The Greek Orthodox Church drew people in to help with a gleaning project to bag 4,000 potatoes for the needy.
Golightly also invited all the faith groups to join the Mormonss and others for “Day to Serve,” a regional interfaith effort Sept. 15-29 to feed the hungry and improve communities. Hundreds of service events are planned in the broader Washington, D.C., region for the next few weeks and “they are an extension of the Unity Walk — another way for people of different faiths to unite under the shared value of service.” For more information, see daytoserve.org.
Laurie Snow Turner is a writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She blogs at lauriesnowturner.com.