RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

El Dorado Hills parishioners at Rolling Hills Christian Church participate Sunday at a service honoring firefighters, veterans and law enforcement officers in a 9/11 remembrance.

A decade after 9/11, many again turn to faith

Published: Monday, Sep. 12, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 12, 2011 - 8:03 am

Just as they did a decade ago, thousands headed to houses of worship for solace Sunday as congregations across the region held special commemorative services.

Bells tolled, flags waved and ministers in the Sacramento area preached about remembering the past and praying for the future. Some churches invited guest speakers. Others honored local first responders.

At Rolling Hills Christian Church, a megachurch in the foothills of El Dorado Hills, thousands gathered for two hourlong services that moved congregants to tears.

"Out of tragedy, God can bring something better," said the Rev. Jake Larson in his sermon.

The church, which typically has about 2,100 weekly worshippers, was standing-room-only Sunday.

Members and visitors crowded into the sanctuary to watch a video and music service that included a tribute to law enforcement and military personnel, bagpipe players and interviews with local first responders. Video from 9/11 was shown throughout the services.

"I thought it was amazing," said Miranda Pinto, 29 of El Dorado Hills. "It really hits you to see all the lives lost."

As many turned to faith, churches came up with creative ways of commemorating the day. Bayside Church in Granite Bay sold American flags, with proceeds going to local widow and orphan funds for law enforcement and firefighters, and for Blue Star Moms that provides care packages for soldiers. During the services, the Rev. Ray Johnston interviewed Mindi Russell, Sacramento area law enforcement chaplain, about her experiences at ground zero.

Across town, over at Sun River Church in Rancho Cordova, Robert Seiple, the State Department's first ambassador for international religious freedom, was to speak.

Local first responders were honored in the area. Members of Rolling Hills gave loud and sustained applause to veterans, firefighters and law enforcement personnel.

Larson said it was important to remember all the good that people did on that day a decade ago and that many spontaneously turned to houses of worship.

"They didn't turn to entertainment or libraries or sports," he said in an interview in his office. "They turned to God."

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