Rev. Burns Stanfield has been the pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston for the past 20 years while teaching at the Harvard Divinity School and Andover-Newton Theological Seminary. In the days that followed the Boston Marathon bombing Reverend Burns visited the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in New England, to offer prayers and words of solidarity. Having run the Boston Marathon seven times Reverend Stanfield lives with his wife and three music-loving children in Milton.
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Continuing to 'Run the Race With Perseverance'
I finished my first Boston Marathon in 2002, running with two parishioners to raise funds for our church. The experience was exhilarating, and I’ve run the course six times since, relishing each year the cascade of powerful moments. Speaking as a preacher, the marathon was the sermonic gift that kept giving: the challenge of Heartbreak Hill, the boost even we slow runners get from cheering multitudes, the necessity of water and salty snacks. And Hebrews 12 gives us our text: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …”
With last year’s Boston Marathon, however, everything changed. Our church did have a runner in the race — he crossed the finish line six minutes before the first bomb exploded — but any interest in locating metaphorical gems was overshadowed by the real-time incursion of evil. Some parishioners knew victims, others were near the scene, and everybody joined in the immediate grieving of our city.
When we learned later that the perpetrators were Muslim, we felt another round of anguish, fearing that the incident could trigger a wave of religious prejudice and bigotry.