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Boston bombings: Marathon finish line becomes a place of worship

April 21, 2013|By Melanie Mason
(Julio Cortez, AP )

BOSTON -- The Boston Marathon's finish line, a site of tragedy six days ago, became a place of worship Sunday afternoon as those attending an interfaith gathering set about "reconsecrating" the street.

Attendees, spilling past barriers set up for the crowd and into Berkeley Street -- the closest spot open to the public near the finish line -- sang "America the Beautiful" and several hymns, including "Guide My Feet While I Run This Race."

Rabbi Howard Berman of Central Reform Temple opened with a prayer to reclaim the streets that had been affected by Monday's attack. Blocks of Boylston Street, the final stretch of the race, are still an active crime scene and are closed to traffic and pedestrians.

"This is a city of life, a city of energy," Berman said after the service. "We didn't want this street to continue to be associated with death and sorrow."

Clergy held Bibles and Torah scrolls, aiming, Berman said, to reconsecrate the area that had been defiled by violence.

"By our presence, we wanted to make this place holy again," he said.

Six congregations from Boston's Back Bay neighborhood -- Central Reform Temple, Church of the Covenant, First Baptist Church, Arlington Street Church, Trinity Church and Old South Church -- organized the gathering.

Old South, a United Church of Christ church with a congregation of about 800 people, is located just blocks from the finish line, within the area still cordoned off by law enforcement. Rev. Kenneth Orth, a healing faith minister, said the congregation has not been able to go back to the church since Monday.

"We are a church in exile," he said. The congregation's Sunday service was held at nearby Church of the Covenant. Readings included the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12, which includes Jesus' teaching "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Orth said local clergy organized the interfaith effort because "we understand we're all together as one people of God."

Orth said several of members of the congregation sustained injuries in the attack and at least two people remain hospitalized. He has made hospital visits every day since Monday.

After the brief service, people edged toward the memorial at the race's finish line, which has been blanketed with flowers, stuffed animals, flags and balloons. Three crosses stood with the names and photos of the three people who died in the attack: Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi.

"I needed this," said Tyler Dodd, 30, a resident of Boston's South End. "It's good after the tragedy to see multiple faiths together."

Dodd, who describes himself as "super spiritual," said the last week has been life-changing. He had been close by when the bombs went off Monday. In the chaos, he aided a young woman who was injured by shrapnel; the next day, Gov. Deval Patrick made a plea on her behalf to find Dodd, so that she could thank him.

"I'll never be the same," Dodd said. "I'll try to come back to normalcy. But I'm changed."

Most of the blocked-off intersections along Boylston Street have become impromptu sites of reflection. Most are marked with flowers or handwritten notes, but pedestrians slowed even when the barricades were unadorned, staring at the eerie stillness of what is usually a major thoroughfare.

Back at the finish line, after the service concluded, John and Diane Jannetti, both 56, took in the scene. They were wearing their 2013 blue and yellow marathon jackets; John had volunteered at the race and Diane had run. She never got to finish. It was the first time since Monday that they had returned to the race route.

"I feel numb. And sad," said John, who had been across the street from the second explosion. 

He said he could hardly wait to get back to work teaching at Andover High School on Monday. Both have already returned to running. They, along with about half of their running club, ran in a five-mile race in Methuen, Mass., on Saturday.


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Twitter: @melmason

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