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Alumni in New York City reflect on 9-11
Hope – or lack thereof, Mervin Horst '84
Extending God's reign in this time and place, Malinda Berry '96

Hope – or lack thereof

I always considered myself an optimist. I say hello to those whom I know and smile at those whom I do not. However, since Sept. 11, I have found being hopeful increasingly difficult.

I have lived in Manhattan since October 1984, shortly after graduating from college. I work in midtown Manhattan as a legal assistant on the 26th floor of a midsized office building. The conference room across from my office has a beautiful view from 56th Street north. I can clearly see landmarks that are important in my life such as The Riverside Church, where I am a member, and the George Washington Bridge, which is two blocks from my cooperative apartment.

On the day of the hijackings, I arrived at work early at 8:15 and was fully engrossed when we received a firm-wide e-mail that, due to a plane crash at the World Trade Center downtown, there would be no hand deliveries. I looked north out the window and was amazed how beautiful the view was. Over the next few days I was always impressed how looking out north one would never have a clue that such mass destruction took place about three miles south.

One of the most influential books I read during my days at Goshen in preparation for SST was From the Other’s Point of View by (Professor Emeritus of Communication) Dan Hess; it helped me understand others who are different from me. However, in our present situation I have a hard time seeing things from the point of view of someone who would deliberately kill so many people in such a horrendous manner. For days after the hijackings, as I was sitting in my apartment or even in a beautiful church during one of the many religious services or memorials I attended in the aftermath, I would hear an airplane and imagine a crash, or envision the nose of a plane coming through the wall I faced.

I have complete faith that I am completely loved by God and am in God’s care. I have no fear of living in the city and taking the subway several times each day, although many here remain petrified. But I have a hard time being hopeful when I consider all of the ramifications of the events of Sept. 11. I acknowledge that things could have been much worse, yet the physical, political, economic, psychological damage seem to be more far reaching that any of the perpetrators could have imagined. Much of the world has long lived with such fear, and continue to live on the edge even as many in the United States now feel they do. I had faith in the development of humankind. It now feels like we have been cast back a few centuries, if not millennia.

I never considered such destruction could be wielded on our city. Perhaps experiencing this mass destruction so close home has made it hard for me to remain hopeful.

Mervin Horst is a derivatives paralegal at the Law Firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; he recently completed the Certificate in Paralegal Studies at New York University. A member of The Riverside Church and Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, he has served both in various lay leadership positions.

Extending God's reign in this time and place

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand...”

These words from the familiar gospel hymn came to my mind as I thought about hope and what I think it might be. I must confess that as I began to think about it, I did not at first know how to describe where my hope comes from or what it is even like, but I know that it is real even if it is beyond ready-to-use language that can be sung in four-part harmony.

I moved to New York City 18 days before the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, leaving thousands injured and dead and catapulting the United States into a bombing campaign in Afghanistan. That’s a lot of heavy stuff – and all I did was move here to begin a doctoral program in systematic theology. But since the 11th of September, I have come to accept that I also came here to reflect on times precisely like these.

Consider these words of Jesus in chapter 19 of Luke’s gospel: “‘If you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed the days will come upon you when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’”

One of my professors is clear that doing theology requires imagination. As I heard the passage from Luke read in a chapel service on Sept. 11, I imagined a Jesus who is indicting us for our complacency. His words prepare us 2,000 years in advance for crisis. There is hard truth in his message: our enemies crush us because we fail to recognize the very presence of God and what it takes to extend God’s reign in this time and place.

God has blessed humankind with imagination: the capacity we have to grasp the possibilities of a moral vision based on the things that make for peace and a spirit that makes these things visible and clear to those around us even in the midst of our human frailty.

As people of faith, God asks us to nurture our sense of Christian hope. We are to be about the tasks of shaping and sharing with others a moral vision that matters and a set of ethics that is possible while also prophetic. I cannot think of many things that are more needed in our time than wholeness and an ethic that reconstructs the scattered pieces of our lives. And so, my hope is built on nothing less than the possibilities and the promises that undergird Jesus’ call to recognize the things that make for peace because if such things didn’t exist, he wouldn’t expect us to look for them.

Malinda Berry is enrolled in Union Theological Seminary’s doctoral program in systematic theology. She attends Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship.

Return to December Bulletin contents
About this issue – Stretching our hands toward hope - Editor Rachel Lapp
The end is the beginning – “A contagion of hope”
- President Shirley H. Showalter
Finding hope in the cemetery
- Don Blosser, professor of Bible
'Last hope' brings new life (times three)
- Ryan Miller interviews Jenny Jenkins, assistant professor of Biology
Hope in the final act: It's our scene
- Alan '62 and Eleanor '57 Kreider
'God is still right beside me': A faith walk with MS
- Ryan Miller interviews Kim Kulp Birk '98

In search of hope
- Brian R. Hook '93
Alumni in New York City reflect on 9-11
- Mervin Horst '84, Malinda E. Berry '96

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