Twenty-seven people have died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. after a gunman walked in and began shooting adults and children this morning. News reports as of this evening say that twenty of the fatalities were children.
The state, and indeed the entire nation, is responding with horror, shock, and grief for these children of God, young and old. "Our hearts are beyond heavy and eyes, full of tears for the terrible loss of children and adults in Newtown this day," said Connecticut Conference Interim Minister the Rev. Charles L. Wildman. "Please hold Newtown in your Sunday prayers and honor God's life and salvation among us in this season of Advent Good News by continuing with the pageants, concerts, children's programs and the like. These life-affirming activities make a statement that God is with us and evil will NOT have the last word."
Many, many Connecticut Conference churches will hold prayer services or candlelight vigils this weekend. A list comes below, and so does Rev. Wildman's full message to the churches' lay and clergy leaders of the Connecticut Conference.
A Prayer for Such a Time as This
Our voices rise as from Ramah. We cry out for our children. God, who will comfort us?
With stunned tears we watch and listen and wait as word of horrors comes to us. With frozen minds we ask how, once again, such terrible violence has erupted among us. With aching hearts we anticipate the grieving cries: Rachels upon Rachels, Isaacs upon Isaacs, weeping for their children.
The days will come when we can ask why and have some hope of answering the question, O God. We pray your guidance then, when we can labor to prevent these tears.
Until then, to our aching hearts, for our frozen minds, amidst our streaming tears, bring tender comfort and unshakable love.
From the Conference Minister
Our hearts are beyond heavy and eyes, full of tears for the terrible loss of children and adults in Newtown this day. While news still filters in, we pray deeply and soulfully for the children, teachers and families whose loss is beyond words. We also hold in prayer our Newton Church and its Senior Pastor, Matt Crebbin, dear colleague and friend, as well as Janice Touloukian, Associate Pastor, Allysa De Wolf, Youth Minister and Edwin Cofey, Commissioned Lay Minister. UCC General Minister and President Geoffrey Black has called me with his sincere condolences and offer of any and all help possible.
As news unfolds and more tears flow, we will support one another as a Conference family of churches. For now, please hold Newtown in your Sunday prayers and honor God's life and salvation among us in this season of Advent Good News by continuing with pageants, concerts, children's programs and the like. These life-affirming activities make a statement that God is with us and evil will NOT have the last word.
Peace and love,
Tonight (12/14/12 )
Drew Hall at Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Hartford - prayer vigil - 6PM
On the Common Granby Center (South & First Churches Granby) – shared candle-light gathering – 6 PM
First Congregational Church, Cheshire – church open for prayers and meditation - 6 to 8 PM
Park Congregational Church, Norwich – church open for prayer - 6 to 7 PM
Avon – open for meditation and prayer – 6 – 8PM
Middletown, First United Methodist – 6PM
Essex Fire House - community-wide, non-religious/religious candlelight vigil - 6:15 to 6:30 PM
Milford, First – prayer service – 6:30 PM
Newtown Congregational Church - prayer vigil - 7 PM
King Street UCC, Danbury - prayer and candlelight service - 7 PM
First Woodbury Congregational - community prayer vigil with candle lighting -7 PM
Goshen Church of Christ, Congregational - longest night service - 7 PM
Huntington Congregational Church, UCC (Shelton) - Service with prayers, silence, & scripture - 7 PM
Baptist Church Meetinghouse on the town green, Branford (First Congregational & Baptist Church) - shared Prayer Service - 7:00 to 7:30 PM
Rocky Hill Congregational church - community vigil - 7 PM
The First Congregational Church in Bloomfield - Community Candlelight Vigil 7-8 PM
South Britain - prayer service - 7PM
Mansfield, First – prayer service – 7PM
Bloomfield, First – candlelight vigil – 7PM
Goshen Church of Christ, Congregational-prayer service - Noon
New Haven Green – United Church on the Green and Redeemer - candlelight vigil – 6 PM
Roxbury – community candlelight gathering – no time given
Newtown High School - Community-wide prayer service - 7 PM. High School is at 12 Berkshire Road.
Resources for the Soul
These prayers were written after Columbine:
O God, help us.
Help us to reach out to those whose world was destroyed by violence today.
Help us to soothe the fears of children who will walk through our doors having heard about terror in a school that could have been theirs.
Help us to comfort those who mourn for children they will never kiss again, those who weep for the loss of students, those who have seen a friend or teacher die.
Help us to quiet our anguished scream of "Why?" Help us, rather, to say "How do we go on from here?"
O God, help us.
In the midst of such suffering, we come to you, O God, on behalf of those whose lives have been so tragically attacked and destroyed. We also come in our own sorrow and pain.
God, you and we are agonized by what we have witnessed today.
Hold closely all who scream and cry out to you.
Move us all beyond outrage and revenge.
When it is hard to see your face because of tears and confusion,
may our eyes be opened to the sight of your grace.
May past gifts of love from you be remembered and shared.
Accept our human brokenness
and knit our lives into your wholeness again.
In this dark night of the souls of your children,
we long for the light of the morning that can come from you.
All of these things we pray for, in your good time, and according to your good intention for your creation. Amen.
Psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 34: 17-18 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Isaiah 43: 2-3a When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
II Corinthians 1:3-4a Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.
John 1:5 the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 11: 25-26a Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Eric Anderson is the Minister of Communications & Technology of the Connecticut Conference, UCC