Grace at ground zero

“It changed my life and my ministry. It’s with me every day, wherever I go,” said Stephen Bouman, who was bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod on 9/11 and is now executive director for ELCA Domestic Mission.

“For the last 15 years I’ve been trying to say thank you for this beautiful church,” he said. “What I bring with me to my current job is that I know in my bones what it’s like when this whole church works together.”

Although he moved to Chicago in 2008, Bouman considers himself a New Yorker for life and believes that what he witnessed and learned post-9/11 is relevant today, which he has written about in his book Baptized for This Moment: Rediscovering Grace All Around Us (Acta, 2016).

“Now in the world, which I trace to 9-1-1, our public mood is that we are paralyzed by anger, fear and scarcity,” he said. “My book is about a place for grace-based witness in this world when we can’t even talk about refugees without talking about walls.”

In his book, a sequel to Grace All Around Us: Embracing God’s Promise in Tragedy and Loss (Augsburg Books, 2007), Bouman calls people “to re-engage the soul of faith in the public arena, to accompany public society with the most graceful and irenic and communal commitments of our traditions.”

On this 15th anniversary of 9/11, Bouman wants people to see the church as God’s answer to ground zero. “I want people to stop and remember that this isn’t a token; those were real lives, real people who died and risked everything following their vocation to rescue,” he said. “In the same way a city came together in ways it never had, so did this church. Where hatred, violence and bad religion tried to take over our turf, God’s love conquers all.”

For more stories on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, see the related articles below.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is an associate editor of Living Lutheran.

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