John Philip Newell: 9/11 Prayers Connecting Distant Shores

R eadTheSpirit is shaping our response to 9/11 partly through a series of interviews with Celtic Christian writer John Philip Newell. Here is our latest interview with John Philip on his book A New Harmony. Then, inspired by John Philip's approach to prayer-here is our national 9/11 invitation to pray for a better world. At the close of our interview on A New Harmony, John Philip talked about this tenth anniversary:

9/11 Prayers


Distant Shores


O n 9/11, I will be back on Iona, which has played such a big part in my life. We will be praying for peace there--chanting for peace in the Abrahamic tradition--at the abbey on Iona. I will be there as part of a week-long pilgrimage to Iona, but our chanting for peace will be open to anyone who happens to be passing through the island at that time.

I have a very definite sense that, at this point 10 years down the road from 9/11, we are being called to remember a tragic moment--and to recognize that we are part of a turning movement in the world. My home base is in Edinburgh, Scotland, but I travel widely in many different parts of the United States and I feel these longings that are connected to this anniversary.

Yes, we long to mark the tragedy, but this is a moment now to shift our gaze from the past. We are called to turn our eyes toward the work of transformation, toward the work of peacemaking in our world. We must do this intentionally. This is true of course in all kinds of tragedy we experience in our lives, individually and collectively. We can get stuck looking back.

Looking back and remembering at this anniversary is a healthy instinct, but we must not allow ourselves to become paralyzed in that direction. The deeper invitation is to see the journey of transformation that is taking place all around the world.

Now, we need to ask: How can we help to make pace? What kind of world are we hoping will emerge?

In addition to the chanting and praying for peace on Iona on 9/11, we are planning a big chanting for peace on a different date: 11/11/11 in Austin, Texas. We are collaborating with Jewish and Muslim and Christian communities in Austin. The historical context is that November 11 was the armistice that ended World War I. Now, we are seeking a new armistice, a new peace, within the Abrahamic household.

There is so much to do at this time and I am adapting my own work in many ways. I had been scheduled, quite a while ago, to lead a retreat in Austin at that time. Now we are enlarging what we are doing there to speak to the world in this new way.

FIND OUT MORE about John Philip Newell through our earlier in-depth interviewThat article includes links to his books as well as to his personal website, where John Philip posts updates on his travels and future events.



Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.