On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States on the second floor balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Immediately following the ceremony he went inside the building and delivered his first Presidential address to Congress.
Following the address, President Washington led the entire Senate and House of Representatives several blocks away to St. Paul’s Chapel where they would gather for prayer to commit the future of our nation into God’s hands. It was recorded in the Annals of Congress as part of the first-ever joint session of Congress. The inauguration of the newly formed United States of America began with a gathering of our elected officials before God.
In his inaugural address, Washington acknowledged God’s hand at work in the nation and asked for his blessings on the country. “Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.”
In 1789, St. Paul’s Chapel, which sits between what is now Broadway and Church Street at Fulton. The entrance in 1789 was on the Church Street side and at that time the church owned the large field that was between it and the bay. Interestingly, that field in the early 70s became the sight of the World Trade Center.
On September 11, 2001, when the twin towers and several other buildings were brought down by terrorists, St. Paul’s Chapel survived without so much as a broken window. (The church’s organ was damaged by dust and smoke but has since been restored.) It is believed that the church was protected from damage by a “miracle” sycamore tree that sat on the corner of the property between the twin towers and the church. The tree was destroyed by debris and has since been replaced by a cedar tree which, many believe, is the modern day fulfillment of Isaiah 9:10 following the Assyrians’ attack on Israel. In fact, some believe the attack on the World Trade Center and was a warning from God to turn away from its ungodly ways and seek God in all things, also according to Isaiah.
“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” Isaiah 9:10
(Several years after the attack a cornerstone – a dressed stone - was laid in place at the base of where the new tower was to be erected.)
Whatever the reason, the very place where our first official government met to ask God’s favor on our nation miraculously survived the destruction of the World Trade Center that occurred literally in its back yard. And it survived virtually unscathed. One could call it a coincidence, I suppose, but I believe God’s hand protected the little chapel for a reason. Call me crazy.