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Wall St. Church Dealing with Stressful Holiday

( [email protected] ) Nov 27, 2008 02:10 PM EST
NEW YORK (AP) - From Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street, it's easy for the Rev. James Cooper to see one effect of the devastating layoffs in the financial district. "There are simply fewer people on the street," Trinity's rector said Tuesday.
Specialists work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York November 25, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (AP) - From Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street, it's easy for the Rev. James Cooper to see one effect of the devastating layoffs in the financial district. "There are simply fewer people on the street," Trinity's rector said Tuesday.

He knows those missing people have lost their jobs, and he knows that layoffs in New York and elsewhere - and the trillions of dollars gone from Americans' personal wealth - mean stressful Thanksgivings in millions of homes.

As the historic Episcopal church prepared for its traditional holiday services - one at lunchtime Wednesday designed for business people and one on Thursday for parishioners - Cooper suggested there's something to be said for a worrisome Thanksgiving.

"Whether it's an economic misfortune or Grandma's in the hospital, stress can make the relationships at the table more poignant and more valued, whether we're talking about the altar or a Thanksgiving table," he said.

"Maybe we can get up from that table and go into the world renewed by that time together. Maybe we can be alert to those who don't have a table to go to."

Whatever ends up in Trinity's Thanksgiving collection plate - the church is suggesting MetroCards as well as money - will go to the John Heuss House, a nearby homeless drop-in shelter. In addition, after singing "Now Thank We All Our God," the congregation will be invited to walk to the shelter and help serve a Thanksgiving meal.

"If you think about it, Thanksgiving is founded in difficult times," Cooper said. "The Pilgrims had buried 46 of their company of 102; how can you be thankful in that context?

"When Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday, it was right after the carnage of Gettysburg," he added.

As the economy staggered in the run-up to Thanksgiving, Cooper and his staff have counseled many Wall Streeters who are threatened with losing their jobs.

"They ask us if the downturn will ever end, and we're not experts, and we say, `It always has,'" Cooper said.

"And they ask, `Will life be different after?' And I think of 9/11, a horrible and horrendous day, but it led to new life and vitality - volunteerism, respect for each other.

"Life will be different with whatever the new economy is," Cooper said. "I hope the end result is a few less homeless and a few less hungry when all is said and done."

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