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Residents gather for interfaith service in memory of Sandy Hook shooting victims

  • Governor Elect Maggie Hassan, right, joins in the singing of "On Angels Wings" along with Rev. Kate Atkinson, Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Rev. Jonathan Hopkins and Fr. Richard Roberge during Sunday's Interfaith Service of Hope and Rememberance for the People of Newtown, Connecticut at the St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Governor Elect Maggie Hassan, right, joins in the singing of "On Angels Wings" along with Rev. Kate Atkinson, Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Rev. Jonathan Hopkins and Fr. Richard Roberge during Sunday's Interfaith Service of Hope and Rememberance for the People of Newtown, Connecticut at the St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Becca Brewster of Concord holds her son Seth as the names of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and other lost loved ones, is read during an Interfaith Service of Hope and Remeberance for the people of Newtown at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord on Sunday, December 23, 2012.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Becca Brewster of Concord holds her son Seth as the names of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and other lost loved ones, is read during an Interfaith Service of Hope and Remeberance for the people of Newtown at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord on Sunday, December 23, 2012. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Governor Elect Maggie Hassan, right, joins in the singing of "On Angels Wings" along with Rev. Kate Atkinson, Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Rev. Jonathan Hopkins and Fr. Richard Roberge during Sunday's Interfaith Service of Hope and Rememberance for the People of Newtown, Connecticut at the St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Becca Brewster of Concord holds her son Seth as the names of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and other lost loved ones, is read during an Interfaith Service of Hope and Remeberance for the people of Newtown at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord on Sunday, December 23, 2012.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

Under garlands of fake evergreen boughs and big red bows, about 100 residents of different faiths gathered yesterday to honor and try to make sense out of the deaths of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month.

They gathered at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord to hear the words of spiritual leaders and the state’s governor-elect, Maggie Hassan, “and yet,” Hassan said, “each of us knows there are not words in this language or any other than can undo what happened, that can assuage the pain, the grief and the anguish.

“We know our task is not only to grieve, but to prevent this from happening again,” Hassan said, calling on the state to balance the individual right to own firearms with reasonable gun safety.

The Right Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, pushed harder in his remarks, answering a call by the National Rifle Association last week to put armed guards in every school in the country.

“Was there a security guard outside the stable (of the Nativity)? . . . It is in the unsecure places, the uncomfortably undefended places where the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Mary and Jesus and the God of Muhammad displays the power of love and peace,” he said.

He questioned how “my brothers and sisters in faith who feel it is their God-given right to bear weapons like those used in this attack (can) see no moral conflict between bearing such weapons and adoring the Christ.”

Instead, people should push for “effective and efficient mental health care (that provides) the chance for people to talk for a long time and talk many times, to bear witness to each other,” he said.

The service, organized by the Greater Concord Interfaith Council, featured readings from the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, humanist teachings and poetry.

After the readings, the Rev. Roseanne Roberts and the Rev. Peter Hey of the Wesley United Methodist Church read the names of people who have died and are missed.

The first 28 names were the famous ones: Dawn Hochspring, the principal who tried to stop the gunman. Anne Marie Murphy, who held one of her special-needs students as they both died. Jack Pinto, 6-year-old lifelong fan of the New York Giants.

Roberts also read the names of Nancy Lanza and her son Adam, who used his mother’s guns to shoot her before killing the others and himself at the school.

Then the officiants read names submitted by people at the service. Many were remembered by their first name only: James, Stephanie, Max, Rick, Ruby, Kay and Esther among them.

Tom Solter, a Concord resident and teacher at St. Paul’s School, submitted the names of family members who recently died.

“On some level, we’ve all experienced the loss of someone we loved . . . In hearing all those names, it strengthens my sense of community,” he said after the service.

At the end, as they sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” pockets of the crowd began to sway in time with the swelling music. After the music faded, they left, many stopping in the church entry way to shake hands or embrace.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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