Several hundred people came together on a pleasantly warm Sunday morning this week, brought together by a shared desire to worship while also honoring those who serve on the anniversary of one of the nation’s greatest tragedies.
With an American flag draped out off of a bucket at the top of an extended Central Platte Fire Protection District truck ladder as a backdrop, a large congregation gathered Sunday, Sept. 11 on the lawn of the Platte County Courthouse. More than a half dozen churches participated in the unique event that featured music, prayer, scripture and plenty of self-reflection.
“We’ve come together today not on the lowest common denominator of Christianity but around the highest ideal: the cross of Jesus Christ that brings us together and fixes broken things,” said Dr. Rusty Savage, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Platte City and one of the service’s main organizers.
Church leaders from the area met each day for the 10 days leading up to the service, which began at 11 a.m. and lasted a more than an hour.
Savage believed this to be one of the most unifying events for the local faith community in Platte City’s history, occurring during the normal Sunday service time for the churches involved. That show of unity doesn’t happen often with leaders willing to set aside their individual services to come together as a single congregation.
Musicians on hand started the service with a rendition of “The Solid Rock” before Savage and Rick Krist, pastor of Christ Chapel in Platte City, welcomed those in attendance, which included emergency personnel representatives from the Platte City Police Department, Platte County Sheriff’s Office, Central Platte Fire Protection District and others. Church leaders also recognized the first responders along with active military in attendance, asking the worshipers to reflect on how the terrorist attack 15 years ago on the World Trade Center towers that killed nearly 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000 others helped shape current world views.
Representatives from nine different churches eventually shared their thoughts, creating a unifying message for the day of remembrance.
“We are the church of this community,” said Brady Testorff, pastor of The Calling Community Church in Platte City.
Savage implored the crowd of people to join together — both in proximity and spirit — and to interact with those around them that were previously strangers. Soft, melodic music served as a backdrop for the impassioned speeches.
Members of First Baptist, Christ Chapel, First Christian Church of Platte City, Platte City United Methodist, New Life Baptist, Second Baptist Church of Platte City, Bethel House of Prayer and The Calling Community Church participated. The large turnout left people clamoring to scrunch together for the shaded area of what the church leaders called “the community’s front lawn.”
“The amazing thing this morning is that we are one church, and I’m so proud of that,” Krist said. “We might be eight or nine different denominations put together here this morning, but we are one church.”
Savage long felt that the church should help keep remembrance of 9/11 in the public consciousness. With the 15-year anniversary falling this year, he started thinking about a picnic or festival on the Baptist church’s property, but recent events led him to seek a more substantial event.
When he approached Krist about combining plans, the event started to grow.
Dr. Charles Briscoe, longtime pastor now retired from Paseo Baptist Church in Kansas City, served as the guest speaker. He is a longtime leader in the faith community in the area, pastoring through the worst racial tensions of the late 1960s.
The churches also welcomed Scott Lemasters and his ministry called “Taking it to the Streets.” Lemasters and his volunteers support first responders at major incidents by providing food, water, bathrooms, etc. and also feed and support the homeless in Kansas City.
The group submitted an application for an event permit and plans to close down a portion of Main Street until 2 p.m. There were inflatables and activity bags to help occupy the children in attendance and hot dogs and water bottles were served.