Four churches came together for their fourth annual 9/11 memorial service on Sept. 11 to mark the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001. About 50 people showed up for the service, held at noon in front of the Kershaw County Courthouse on Broad Street in Camden.
The four represented churches were El Bethel Faith of Lugoff); Lakeshore Church of God, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and First Assembly of God, all of Camden.
El Bethel Pastor Joe Stines led the program, and noted that this year’s was the biggest crowd to participate.
“9/11 is a day we will never forget,” Stines said. “More than 3,000 Americans died that day. That was a Tuesday and on Wednesday, the church was full. That Sunday, the church was full. But how soon we forget.”
Stines suggested to those gathered that they need to be aware of the terrorist threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“We need to be brave for our country and for our president. We need to pray for our military, especially the ones overseas,” he said.
Bruce Watford offered the opening prayer, followed by “America, the Beautiful,” sung by an El-Bethel congregant.
Mt. Olivet Pastor Steve Lee served as the speaker of the day. Lee began by talking about an internet message he received from another pastor in South Carolina.
“‘We changed. We were one. We repaid evil with good. But, did we learn?’” he read from the message. “We came to think differently about our nation and our place in the world.”
Lee said there are four conditions people go through coming out of tragedy: humility, prayer, seeking God’s face and turning from one’s wicked ways. Failing that, he said, can lead America to becoming something it should not.
“We could become a proverb or a byword for the nations, but let it never be that America becomes a byword. The things God requires of us have never changed: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly,” Lee said.
He said he did not want 9/11 to recede into just an historical fact on a test for students.
“I want to make sure (they) know the world changed, that the world is a complicated place but … God never intended for (us) to live separately from him,” he said.
Lee said that when he did some research to remind himself of details of that day 13 years ago, he found there are conflicting numbers as to how many died. Some accounts, he said, list 2,985 people, skipping over the terrorists themselves. Others include them, bringing the total to 2,995, Lee said.
In remembering those who died, Lee said Christianity’s “Good News” is “news of peace.”
“The church could have done a better job of being a witness” to that good news,” Lee said, instead of launching the Crusades, for example. “May then, religions of hate would have given way to the religion of love.”
Lee also used Solomon as an example that should be followed in the post-9/11 world that includes groups like ISIS.
“Solomon … asked for wisdom. And God said, ‘Since you asked for wisdom, I will give you riches and success on the battlefield.’ We should pray for wisdom for our president, for our military leaders and for my son, who is serving in Afghanistan,” he said.
He said God does not deny going after the man who wronged you, but you should not go after that man’s family or his tribe.
“He should never be called on to obliterate your enemies,” Lee said.
Lee also invoked President Abraham Lincoln and a portion of his address after the Battle of Gettysburg. He touched on the famous last passage that includes “of… by.. (and) for the people.” Immediately preceding that portion of the last sentence is “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,” Lee pointed out.
“If a nation is going to experience (freedom), it will be under God, not under force or political will,” he said.
He also said he would not be watching any images from Sept. 11, 2001.
“Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-five people died 13 years ago,” Lee said, of seeing those images played out on television “again and again and again. I won’t watch again. They are permanently within me. What I will do is pray for our young men and women who defend us and pray for those who seek to attack us. For them to see that this nation was conceived in liberty for all men … that it is ‘of the people, by the people, for the people (and) shall not perish from the earth.’”
Lakeshore Church of God Pastor Jeff Grubbs led the closing prayer, followed by a rendition of Amazing Grace by Gene Cassidy.