Representatives from nearly a dozen different local religious communities on the evening of Friday, June 14, told a standing-room audience of about 400 people at Newtown Congregational Church that spiritual healing is occurring, albeit sometimes slowly, among community members in the aftermath of the tragic events of December 14.
The clergy members spoke to those gathered in the church sanctuary on the six-month anniversary of 12/14, commemorating the deaths of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook School at the hands of a rampaging gunman.
The Rev Matthew Crebbin, senior minister of Newtown Congregational Church, addressed those at The Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association’s event known as A Communitywide Gathering For Healing and Hope-Building.
The service initially had been scheduled for an outdoor site at Fairfield Hills, but was relocated to the church at 14 West Street in view of possible inclement weather.
Rev Crebbin described the gathering as “a time of care and prayer and song and community.”
US Senator Richard Blumenthal told those present that the actions of Newtowners in the wake of 12/14 inspired the nation.
“We saw evil on that day, but we also saw great good,” Sen Blumenthal said of residents’ response to the tragic shootings.
Brave educators died at Sandy Hook School in their attempts to save the 20 first-graders from being killed, he observed.
The senator stressed that he will work to make America a better place, adding that he will always wear a bracelet bearing the wording. “We Are Newtown. We Choose Love.”
The Reverend Jane Sibley, the minister of visitation and spiritual growth for Newtown United Methodist Church, said that through such interfaith services, the community honors the local diversity of religion.
The Reverend Leo McIlrath, who is the ecumenical chaplain of The Lutheran Home of Southbury, said, “Newtown wasn’t defined by that terrible day. Newtown is being ‘defined’ every day.”
“The world is watching….The world is listening…We need to speak,” he said.
“Newtown is being renewed every day,” he said.
Drawing parallels to the aftermath of 12/14, Rev Crebbin read passages from The Book of Revelation.
Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St Rose of Lima Church, observed that some people wracked by grief following 12/14 are still not eating well or sleeping well. Healing proceeds at different paces for different people, he said.
Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel asked that the six-month anniversary of 12/14 be allowed to serve as “a small step toward healing.”
Rabbi Praver similarly noted that people heal at different paces. He urged that people be patient with others who heal less quickly than they do.
The Reverend Kathleen E. Adams-Shepherd, the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, said, in part, “Life is short…Be quick to be kind.”
The Reverend Mel Kawakami, senior minister of Newtown United Methodist Church, offered a blessing to those attending.
Other clergy members who spoke at the interfaith service included: Deen Kemsley, the leader of the Newtown Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon); the Reverend Jim Solomon, pastor of New Hope Community Church; Dr John and Ms Margo Woodall, leaders of the Baha'i Faith Community; and the Reverend Pastor Jack Tanner, the minister/elder at Newtown Christian Church.
Also, Muadh Bhavnagarwala, a member of Al Hedaya Islamic Center, spoke at the interfaith event.
Musical performances at the service included those attending singing “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.”
Also, guitarist Darryl Gregory and the Children’s Singers performed “We Choose Love.”
Pianist Jim Allyn and the Newtown Youth Voices performed “Within Our Reach.”