Americans Turn To Church For Answers



Right after Sept. 11, the country saw an unprecedented rise in attendance at Sunday services.

Church attendance in metropolitan areas rose by about 30 percent, according to the Rev. Steve Cook, of the Payson Christian Church, and president of the Payson Pastoral Fellowship.

In Payson, the increase was only about 10 to 15 percent and immediately fell back to pre-9-11 levels, he said.

"The threat to Payson was not seen to be as great as that to cities," Cook said, speculating about the different responses.

He said the fall off happened within just a few weeks and the same people that had shown up after the attacks were the same who stopped attending church.

Cook said most church leaders also altered the messages they delivered to congregations in the weeks following the attacks.

He said he has spoken to fellow ministers locally and around the country, and not only did they change their sermons, many also changed the entire Sunday service.

"There was a strong emphasis on prayer, both personal and corporate and the messages leaned toward compassion and comfort," Cook said, adding he has made a study of a number of sermons delivered throughout the country following the attacks.

Speaking in general terms about his counseling after the attacks, Cook said it was not really grief counseling, or even counseling in a traditional sense. Usually it was just getting together with people, sitting down and talking.

The issue people were trying to deal with was not grief or panic, but fear.

"It was fear about what had gone on and what could go on. The fear is still there too, but it is deeper. People are not talking about the fear, they are just living with it. Fear of what might be ahead," Cook said.

He said he hopes the planned commemoration ceremonies help people face these fears, put them aside and move on.

Cook said it seems many of the people who were at the center of the attacks have been able to move on and get back to normal.

He said he thinks people more removed from the actual events have not moved on because they have not been forced to.

"I hope the commemoration ceremonies encourage people to move on," Cook said.

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