With the nation's capital paralyzed and nearly evacuated in the wake of Tuesday's calamitous terrorist attacks, staffers in the Family Research Council (FRC) Washington office stayed behind to pray and to sing "It is well with my soul." Ken Connor, president of the FRC, said, "We mourn the loss of tens of thousands of our countrymen. We pray to the Lord for his mercy for the victims of this heinous act and for their grieving families."

Churches, relief organizations and Christian organizations went into emergency response mode after terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., killed and injured thousands in what former White House Counsel and Prison Fellowship Chairman Chuck Colson called "a national crisis of unparalleled proportions."

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, which coordinates disaster responses, placed feeding units on standby within an hour of the attack. The denomination is also accepting donations to support relief in New York City, according to NAMB President Robert Reccord. According to Baptist Press, other disaster relief units may be mobilized by the end of the day.

Disaster relief workers from mainline denominations were meeting at the Church World Service Emergency Office today in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The coalition is a group of 36 member denominations of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. The meeting went into immediate emergency session when the attack occurred, and participants formulated a plan to mobilize pastoral care in New York City, Washington, D.C., and other locations as necessary. The Church of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, is the communication and response coordination center.

Smoke and debris from the World Trade Center attack were visible in Uptown New York City at the Interchurch Center, where the National Council of Churches and Church World Service are located. Spokesman Carol Fouke said staff members held a noontime prayer service at the organization's chapel today, and may also hold a blood drive. Staff members are also trying to coordinate housing for those unable to get home. They are also praying for people who are waiting to hear about family members near or in the World Trade Center.

Gil Furst, director of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Domestic Disaster, is asking all churches and synods on the East Coast to be open for shelter, prayer and counseling. The organization is also preparing copies of materials to help children who have been traumatized by the attacks. Lutheran Disaster Response has also started a fund for survivors.

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World Relief Executive Director Clive Calver says while the organization has never been involved in a man-made disaster in the United States, "this disaster is one of such magnitude" that World Relief is responding. Calver, who was driving from Chicago to the organization's base in Baltimore because of the nationwide airport shutdown, said World Relief "is monitoring the situation right now and we're ready to receive a call once the damage is assessed and the need made plain."

World Relief, the assistance arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, has started a fund to help churches ministering to the affected and will decide Wednesday whether to produce a booklet for area pastors dealing with the disaster. Calver says the organization will also help mobilize local churches to assist in practical efforts.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, is also gathering teams of trained chaplains and counselors to support survivors, and the Board of General Superintendents of the Nazarene Church also has called for prayer.

The attack affected several Christian organizations with offices in New York, Maryland and Virginia. The national headquarters of the Salvation Army had closed by 10:30 a.m. EST.

Craig Barnes, pastor of National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., told Presbyterian News Service that the church is still trying to locate several members who work at the Pentagon or who might have been in New York. The church planned prayer vigils for Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Leaders called for prayer, justice, and mercy in response to the attack.

"As Christians, it is important that we behave responsibly at this time and not act harshly," said George Anderson, presiding bishop of the ELCA. "We offer prayers for our leaders, who must reassure a shaken nation and investigate today's terrible deeds. Our first thoughts should be to respond to our fellow human beings with love and compassion."

Calver, a Brit, urged the U.S. to avoid vengeful response. "Don't seek for revenge," Calver said. "We must seek for justice. The danger is that we will respond in kind."

Despite the uncertainty and fear surrounding the attack, Colson said one thing is clear.

"The soul of our nation is facing one of its darkest hours," he said. "May God help us."

LaTonya Taylor is editorial resident at Christianity Today.

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Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today's other articles on the attacks include:
In the Belly of the Beast | Christians, calling terrorist attack "satanically brilliant," minister at epicenter of World Trade disaster. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Churches, Agencies Respond to Attacks | Leaders call for prayer, justice, and mercy. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Muslims Fear a Backlash | No matter who is responsible, observers feel a reaction will still be present. (Sept. 12, 2001)

A Wake-Up Call to Become Global Christians | The deadly attacks on America will provoke many responses, but Christians are commanded to love our neighbors. (Sept. 12, 2001)

Nation's Religious Leaders Urge Calm, Pray for Peace | Churches will maintain prayer vigils for victims and leaders. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Church Leaders Around World Deplore 'Unspeakable Horror' of Attack | Christians urged to unite in prayer as they unite in shock and denunciation. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Experts Say Spiritual Roots Will Aid in Coping With Catastrophe | Pray and connect with others, advise nation's chaplains. (Sept. 11, 2001)

Fear and Hate | In times like this, as in all other times, Christians have a responsibility to love above all else. (Sept. 11, 2001)

God's Message in the Language of Events | In the face of evil, we must focus on keeping our hearts right. (Sept. 11, 2001)

For in-depth and continuing coverage of the attacks, see The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, CNN, and Yahoo full coverage.

For more Christian perspectives and responses, see various articles posted Christianity.com, Crosswalk.com, and Beliefnet.com.

The BBC, Boston.com, The Village Voice, and USA Today have photo essays of yesterday's destruction.

For video or audio coverage, see CNN, ABC News,and Sky News. The Washington Post is running a live Web cam of the Pentagon building.

The BBC has compiled reactions from world leaders (with video).

President Bush addressed the nation on Tuesday evening (video | transcript). He also released a statement Tuesday afternoon. Bush first learned of the World Trade Center tragedy while preparing to speak to schoolchildren in Sarasota, Fla.. There, he asked Amercians for a moment of silence for the victims.

Slate.com explained who responds to crisis situations like Tuesday's.

The Pope and Billy Graham have spoke out on the tragedy and sent out prayers to the victims and their families.

An Interpol report details the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Churches and organizations mentioned above include: Family Research Council, North American Mission Board, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The National Presbyterian Church, World Relief, and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee