Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trinity Church Responds to Wall Street Crisis

Chartered in 1697, Trinity has been ministering to people on Wall Street since before Wall Street existed. This remarkable, historical and beautiful Episcopal church sits at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan; it was hit by debris from the World Trade Center collapse on September 11, 2001.

Even though the events of the past week or two rank among the most memorable on Wall Street, it is hardly the first time that Trinity has responded with the arms of Jesus. A church press release put it, “‘As a strong, permanent presence on Wall Street for more than 300 years,’ said the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, rector of Trinity Wall Street, ‘we will continue to do what we always do during difficult times: offer support and solace to those directly facing an uncertain future.’”

“The economic financial crisis is a reminder that we cannot put our faith in riches, that we cannot put our faith in money,” said Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones, Priest for Pastoral Care and Nurture of Trinity Church, in his sermon at lunchtime on Friday, September 19, which he devoted to coping with the financial crisis.

Reuters quoted Bozzuti-Jones on September 22, saying that in recent days he has had requests for help to pay rent from those who had lost their jobs. “The church, which normally attracts tourists and a few financial workers, experienced an upturn in visitors,” the article continued. “‘People are just sitting there, praying or crying and definitely exhausted. There has definitely been an increase in the number of people who have come in,’ [Bozzuti-Jones] said in his office after the service.”

When I called Trinity’s public relations office this morning and asked if the church is offering any specific response to the events on Wall Street, the church’s coordinator of promotion & public relations hardly took a breath before she launched into telling me of the church’s response.

As Dr. Mary Ragan, director of the Trinity Counseling Center, explained in an interview on a Tuesday, September 23, WNYC radio show, “Last week on Monday morning, Canon Anne Mallonee, who is the Vicar of Trinity Church, was on the phone to us at 8:00 AM saying, ‘There is pain and suffering in the Wall Street community, in the people of our congregation and in the people of our neighborhood. How do we reach out? How do we respond to this turmoil?’ We met that morning and immediately set up a group that would meet that very day as well as the next day to hold a seminar called, ‘Coping with Stress in an Uncertain Time.’ So Trinity Church offered this at no cost through our counseling center to really try to address the needs that people were experiencing with the turmoil, and at the same time we’re offering seminars for career counseling, job coaching, as well as resume writing.’

Of course, I know that the Bible doesn’t speak to when to buy or sell which stock, or how to how to manage your 401K. But the Christian faith does have lots to say about how to respond when trouble comes — be that financial trouble, relational trouble, vocational trouble or anything else. I appreciate that Trinity is trying to respond from its rock-supported foundation at the end of the Wall Street, while the rest of the Street is now sitting on shifting stand.

Trinity continues to offer specially-convened support and counseling. Those in need in the New York area, or those of us just interested any were in the world, can find out more at the Trinity Church website. Once you are there, click on the link on the home page titled, "Help in Uncertain Times."

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