Parishioners came together Sunday in parks and on the lawns of churches broken in New Zealand’s earthquake to pray for the dead and missing. They sought togetherness and an answer to the question on everyone’s mind: Why?

“The randomness of the events throws up the ‘why’ question more starkly,” the Rev. Mark Chamberlain told about 100 people who came to hear his sermon outside St. Barnabas Anglican Church, where jagged cracks line the walls, stained glass windows are shattered and the tower is sinking.

“Why did one person survive and one person die? Why did the people in the cathedral — of all places — perish?”

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