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This Weekend: Faith Communities Offering Anniversary Gatherings

Many faith communities in Newtown are offering services and support for residents this weekend, to mark and honor the first anniversary of 12/14.

The media is being asked to respect the privacy of those attending any of these services. Many houses of worship have posted signs on their grounds asking all media to stay back while residents, friends, and families gather to remember those who were killed at Sandy Hook School, and to reflect on the past year.

The Reverend Matt Crebbin, senior minister of Newtown Congregational Church and coordinator for Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association, says those want to attend these services should not have to worry about cameras or microphones being present. His comments came while answering a reporter’s question concerning why the media was being asked to stay out of town this coming weekend.

“One of the challenges for us is that when the media is present, some of the people that are most vulnerable, who need the most support, won’t come,” Rev Crebbin said on Monday during a press conference at Newtown Municipal Center. The press conference also included First Selectman Pat Llodra, Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed, and Newtown Youth Academy Co-Director Cody Foss.

“We don’t want our people to feel and become isolated,” the Rev Crebbin added on December 9. It is important that those who have a need to be with others at this time feel comfortable leaving their homes, he continued.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy has called for houses of worship and other organizations across the state to mark the first anniversary of the Newtown school shooting by ringing their bells 26 times at 9:30 Saturday morning.

(In addition to the faith-based serviced, a number of groups and organizations in town have also planned special events that are meant to help people cope, come together and/or offer support for the weekend of December 13-15. See separate story here.)

Following is a list of the services and events that the association’s faith communities have planned. Please note some of these listings have been updated or expanded from last week’s notice, as faith communities have finalized their plans for the weekend:

Al Hedaya Islamic Center, 115 Mt Pleasant Road (203-426-0589): Friday, December 13, 1 pm, a congregational prayer for unity, peace, and hope toward a better tomorrow.

On Saturday, December 14, from 2 to 4:30 pm, the center will offer aromatic teas for the soul, henna for all ages, and arts and crafts for the children. Saturday’s time will be “a time for reflection and healing … a warm welcome for all,” said Chaplain Cindy Elhag.

Both events are open to the public courtesy of the congregation.

Christ the King Lutheran Church, 85 Mt Pleasant Road (203-426-6300): Saturday, December 14, at 9:20 am, Memorial Prayer Service and Comfort Dog Drop-In.

On the one-year remembrance of the Sandy Hook School shooting, Christ the King will hold a simple memorial prayer service. All are invited to attend and are asked to be at the church by 9:20 am. A brief prayer service will begin immediately afterward.

After the service’s completion, several of the Lutheran Church Charities comfort dogs (including Christ the King’s own Maggie, and Addie from Immanuel Lutheran in Danbury) will be available in the Fellowship Hall for anyone within the community who can benefit from that service. This drop-in time will continue until noon. All are invited and the church will be kept a media-free property.

Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, 16 Saw Mill Road (Bishop Brett Keller, 203-438-2881): Sunday, December 22, service at 9 am with music and spoken word.

Bishop Brad Keller said this week that a service has already been held this month for children. The service on December 22 will “provide a source of comfort and compassion during a very difficult month,” he said. All are welcome for the 60-minute service.

Congregation Adath Israel, 115 Huntingtown Road (203-426-5188): events planned for December 13 and 14.

On Friday evening, the congregation will hold its regular Friday evening Sabbath service from 7:30 to 8:45 pm. The service will have as its focus “Committing to Acts of Kindness and Service to Others.” Newtown musician Jim Allyn and Newtown Youth Voices, a local children’s choir, will be singing several songs during the service.

All are welcome for the service, which will be followed by an hour of fellowship and refreshments.

On Saturday, the sanctuary will be open from 1 to 3 pm, offering time for silent prayer, contemplation, meditation, or quiet conversation. Clergy, social workers, and psychologists will be available should anyone feel moved to speak with a professional. These can be informal group discussions or private individual sessions. Any such conversations will be held in strict confidence.

A separate supervised children’s area for arts and crafts and comfort throughout the afternoon will be set up. Comfort dogs will be visiting from 3 to 4 pm, for everyone to enjoy.

(A traditional Jewish memorial service was already held, on December 7, following the Hebrew calendar for the anniversary, so there will not be a service on December 14.)

The entire Newtown community is invited for any portion or the full time the sanctuary is open. There will be a free spread of refreshments available in the social hall. Adath Israel is a synagogue for all people.

In the Jewish spirit of giving Charity, and in line with First Selectman Pat Llodra’s request that anniversary events focus on acts of kindness and service to others, there is a collection box in the synagogue foyer to support the ongoing rescue efforts in the Philippines following the devastating typhoon that occurred there last month.

The synagogue premises will be secured as a media-free zone for the entire weekend.

Faith at Newtown, 4 Riverside Road (203-364-1448): December 14 at 10 am, Prayer Service.

Grace Family Church, 174 Mt Pleasant Road (203-270-1005): The church doors will open at 9 am Saturday for anyone who wishes to visit and pray.

Newtown Christian Church, 210 Sugar Street (203-426-6189): December 14 at 5 pm, a Candlelight Vigil will honor those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Weather permitting, the service will be held outdoors.

New Hope Community Church (203-770-3745): On Saturday at 6 pm, a Candlelight Vigil will be held at Ram Pasture, on Elm Drive.

This event will be led by New Hope Youth Pastor Hiram Orama, Jr, and is for youth.

“It’s meant to be very casual and informal,” according to New Hope Senior Minister Jim Solomon.

The media is asked to not attend this service.

Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street (203-426-9024): December 14 at 9 am, Service of Prayer and Reflection with The Newtown Youth Voices Choir.

NCC will be joined by Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel as well as other faith leaders from the Connecticut United Church of Christ (CT-UCC) Conference and surrounding communities who have supported Newtown’s faith leaders and community leaders on the journey of this past year. Immediately following the gathering there will be a time for fellowship, including visits with Fidelco Dogs, and refreshments in The Great Room.

The sanctuary will be open for individual reflection and prayer all day.

Newtown United Methodist Church and The Baha’i Community of Newtown, at NUMC, 92 Church Hill Road (203-426-9998): On December 14 at 9 am, these communities will share a collaborative worship service hosted by the Methodist Church.

The Sanctuary will remain open until 5 pm for individual prayer, reflection, and support.

(Please note: The original announcement from Newtown Interfaith Clergy had St John’s Episcopal Church listed as a participant. St John’s will in fact be hosting its own event. Please see separate listing, below.)

St John’s Episcopal Church, 5 Washington Avenue: December 14 at 5 pm, a memorial service.

St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, 46 Church Hill Road (203-426-1014): December 14 at 9:30 am, Mass with The Most Reverend Frank Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport.

His Excellence will be the main celebrant and homilist. The Bells of Consolation, part of The Bells of Remembrance Project, will be tolled prior to the service. Work on The Bells of Consolation began in the early weeks of January in response to 12/14. The mounted bells, ranging in size from 750 pounds to 3,500 pounds, will be brought to St Rose as part of the first anniversary memorials for the children, teachers, and staff who were killed on December 14, 2012.

Following Mass, a permanent memorial outside the sanctuary will be dedicated.

In addition, at 6:30 pm St Rose will present its Annual Living Nativity on the grounds by the school.

At 7:30 pm, a Candlelight Prayer service and dedication of the Angel of Hope statue, recently installed in front of Saint Rose School, will take place.

Trinity Episcopal Church, 34 Main Street (203-426-9070): December 14 at 9 am. Service to include prayer, music, silence, Eucharist, and the lighting of candles for remembrance and comfort.

The service will be followed by a potluck breakfast together with comfort dogs, music, and art therapies for children and youth.

The church will be open all day for prayer.

A prayer vigil will be ongoing in the chapel at front of church, from 8 pm Saturday until 8 am Sunday.

On Sunday, December 15, Trinity will celebrate Gaudete Sunday with Bishop Laura Ahrens during its worship services.

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