Pastor Tim Keller didn't feel fear until months after the terrorist attacks on September 11. Staff members at his church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, say Keller seemed impervious.

Hearing that three church members had died in the World Trade Center disaster, Keller dispatched a prayer team. Over the next few weeks, as urgent phone calls for counseling outstripped the church's resources, Keller raised money for more counselors. And when the seemingly worst news came—he was diagnosed with cancer—he simply weighed medical treatments.

"I was stoic. I couldn't communicate to myself how dangerous my situation was and how scared I had become," Keller told Christianity Today.

Numbness overcame many New York religious leaders at the time. Marcos Rivera, pastor of Primitive Christian Church, recalls that he put aside his initial emotions after the towers collapsed. "At first I locked myself up in the church to pace up and down. I was weeping and crying. Then I clicked into autopilot. I started giving orders: 'Food, chairs, tables for the refugees!' I was very succinct, sharp. This didn't stop with the day of 9/11."

'Deeper roots or perish'


But 14 months later, church leaders are settling into a difficult new reality. The familiar sound of bagpipes preparing for a funeral is gone. The smell of decay coming from the World Trade Center rubble is only a memory.

New York's church leaders have worked overtime to understand 9/11. Redeemer's Keller encountered two kinds of courage. "There is short-term defiance. 'I won't let anyone scare me!' " Keller says, adding that a more valuable type of courage is based on hope. "With God there is hope. Your own fate ceases to be the reason for your courage."

Meanwhile, the Keller family has faced ...

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November 18, 2002

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