They urged worshippers to find light in the darkness, to focus on gratitude, not revenge, and to breathe.
On the first Sunday since the deadly Boston Marathon terror bombings, the Old South Church held a joint service with the Church of the Covenant. The Old South Church is in the cordoned-off area near the bombing scene, which is still being combed by investigators; the Church of the Covenant is one street over.
Reverend Rob Mark of the Church of the Covenant encouraged worshippers to focus on the helpers, and he said he hoped that, though scarred, Boston would emerge as a place even more welcoming than before.
“May this be our invitation as people of faith in the midst of the city of Boston to conspire together to tell a different narrative to our world — not one of violence, profiling, or revenge but one of selfless love, compassion, and hope,” he said. “A narrative of no more hurting people.”
The last words were taken from 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest of three people killed in the blast. A photograph of the boy at his school showed him holding up a homemade sign with the words “No more hurting people,” and the word “Peace,” decorated with two hearts and a peace sign.
Reverend Dr. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South Church, highlighted the Biblical teaching that says to give thanks in all circumstances.
So after thanking first responders, good Samaritans, doctors, nurses, police, and many others, for their actions in rescuing people after the blasts, Taylor inserted some levity and drew applause by elaborating on her list.
“I give God thanks for the Boston Red Sox, for David Ortiz speaking from the heart,” she said. “I give God thanks for Neil Diamond and Sweet Caroline. I give God thanks for the New York Yankees.”
She was referring to Ortiz’s rousing comments about the bombings before a Red Sox game Saturday, the Neil Diamond that Red Sox fans sing toward the end of home games, and the Red Sox’s storied rivalry with the Yankees.
And then she said she was thankful to her followers “for not allowing the darkness to swallow the light.”
“I give God thanks to you for not permitting hate to make of you haters,” said Taylor.
The service seemed to resonate with churchgoers.
Laura Grillo, a member of Old South Church, said before the service she had hesitated to come, not wanting to get caught up in the “mob mentality” and those angrily calling for the death penalty. But afterwards she said she was glad she did.
“We need to return to peace and not all this blood thirst,” she said.
After the service, some worshippers walked the one block to the corner of Berkeley and Boylston streets, to join with members of other churches and temples in a gathering to support the marathon bombing victims.
At the corner, next to barricades set up to keep the public away from the crime scene, a makeshift memorial has sprung up with flowers, balloons, and American flags. Though it’s steadily drawn visitors since the tragedy, this afternoon the intersection swelled with hundreds of worshippers and onlookers, some wiping away tears, standing shoulder to shoulder.
“There is a shared healing spirit that can happen when we come together,” said Susan Ackley, a clergywoman at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street, and one of the participants in the gathering.
About 50 members of the Arlington Street Church sang as they marched from there to the crowded intersection, offering up songs from all faiths, including “Peace Salaam Shalom,” which is the same word repeated in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
The area also drew those unaffiliated with the organizers. A group of about 30 friends walked around in T-shirts emblazoned with “Do you want a hug?” And then delivered just that to anyone who wanted one.
Tania DeAngelis of Medford organized the army of huggers, who had begun the day hours before at the Boston Common.
“Only love can repair all the damage people did to our city,” she said. “We need to stay together.”