Army chaplain wins prize to give 9/11 sermon by ground zero

Ula Ilnytzky AP

An Army chaplain has won a national prize for an original sermon that he will deliver on September 11 at a chapel near ground zero that became a sanctuary of consolation after the terrorist attacks.

The Rev. David Peters, of Austin, Texas, will give his winning sermon during a special morning service at St. Paul’s Chapel.

 In this June 25, 2015, file photo, the World Trade Center, right, looms behind St. Paul's AP file photo

In this June 25, 2015, file photo, the World Trade Center, right, looms behind St. Paul’s AP file photo

The inaugural Reconciliation Preaching Prize competition was launched by the Parish of Trinity Church, which includes St. Paul’s Chapel. It required all entries to address texts from Isaiah and Matthew — one calling for a future without war and the other instructing people to lay down their spears for plowshares.

Peters, a former Marine who became an Army chaplain during the Afghanistan war, said he entered the national contest because he realized how 9/11 has shaped his life.

After that day, “the world changed for us,” the 39-year-old said in his sermon titled “Learning War and Reconciliation” in which he weaves his personal experiences.

“It’s astounding how difficult reconciliation can be … Just like the Marine Corps didn’t just teach me to do war, they taught me to be war, we have to learn to be reconciliation,” wrote Peters, who is working toward a master’s degree in religion at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin and is an assistant parish priest at Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown, Texas.

Reconciliation starts with the “recognition of our own reconciliation,” added Peters, who was a youth minister at a Pennsylvania church at the time of the attacks.

“In his powerful first-hand testimony, David preaches the message that reconciliation is learned and has to be practiced,” said Trinity’s rector, the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer. “It is our hope that his words will comfort those struggling with contemporary events and that they will foster understanding beyond the walls of our sanctuary and remembrance of 9/11.”

Lupfer said the idea for the contest came about because visitors to the World Trade Center site still struggle to make sense of the attacks, more than a decade later, and other acts of hatred.

The Episcopal church, known as “The Little Chapel That Stood,” is directly across from the World Trade Center but was unscathed when the attacks brought down the twin towers. It was turned into a makeshift shrine and became a place of rest and renewal for volunteers and responders. Today, tourists from around the world flock to the house of worship where a number of September 11-related artifacts are on display, including memorial banners from across the globe.

Peters’ sermon will be webcast live at The full text will be available after the sermon is delivered.

The contest is open to people of all faiths, and the parish hopes to offer it annually.


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