I visited St. Paul's Chapel the other day. The chapel stands near the former World Trade Center site in New York City. You may remember coverage in the news back ten years ago of this historic church which miraculously remained standing after the Twin Towers collapsed. It stood while George Washington worshipped there and it continued to stand and minister to God's people when the foundations of our very way of life shook.
This was the church that ministered to the rescue workers who went to work in the recovery efforts, day after dusty, discouraging, horrifying day.
In liturgical churches (such as the Roman Catholic, Episcopal or Greek Orthodox traditions) pastors wear vestments. Or, as a priest I once knew said to a kid I took to church, "Hey, how do you like my dress?" One of these garments is called a chausible. At St. Paul's Church, the pastor wore a red chausible which his mother had made for him.
No one knows how it started, but one weary cop or firefighter or EMS worker or whomever, took the patch from his uniform and safety-pinned it to the red, hand-made by Mom, chausible. This cry to find meaning in the midst of unspeakable horror resonated with many of the rescue workers who slept in the venerable old chapel on cots. One after another they pinned their own patches to the chausible. And when it become too full to take another patch, they begin to pile them on the floor around it.
The pastor officiated at religious services in the red chausible, the fabric nearly hidden by so many patches from all over the world. I saw a patch from Tel Aviv, from a German Police Department, The German Red Cross, from Queensland Austrailia, and from every spot in the United States you could think of. Each represented one person who traveled from far away to stand in solidarity with all of us and found meaning in faith while they were here.
It was one of the most moving things I have ever seen in my life; breathtakingly beautiful in a homey, organic, and from-the-heart kind of way.