Within a week of the now infamous mass violence in Newtown, CT on December 14th, the people of Southington responded with three distinct prayer services for the victims, their families, the survivors and the people of the Town of Newtown and the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The first service, held Sunday evening, Dec. 16th, was at First Congregational Church. The next service was held on Monday evening, Dec. 17th at St. Dominic Church and the third was on Friday evening, Dec. 21st, at the Sikh Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar temple on West Street.
The three faith congregations had invited the general public and many attended one or more of the services. All were well attended.
Invited speakers who spoke at the Gurdwara in Southington included: State Senator Joe Markley; Southington Town Council Chairman, John Dobbins; Southington Police Captain Edward S. Pocock III; Rev. Richard "Sandy" Koenig of Plantsville Congregational Church; Rev. Carol Downs of Grace United Methodist Church; Rev. James Debner of Zion Lutheran Church; Eldon Hafford, Executive Director of Bread for Life; Terry Lombardi, representing the Southington Board of Education with her colleagues, Patricia Johnson and Jill Notar-Francesco standing in support with her; and your blogger, E. Richard Fortunato.
Among the host congregation, speakers included M.C.'s. Amandeep Samra and Amrita Chawla who welcomed the community; 11th grader, Aj Rai; and UConn student, Bhupinder Singh. Sikh priests presented two musical prayers and a statement from Sen. Richard Blumenthal was read by new president of the Sikh community, Mr. Dilraj S. Chawla.
The messages all expressed the deep sorrow, mourning, hope and faith that the children are now angels with God along with their heroic teachers and principal who were shot down trying to protect them.
Tables had been set up by members of the Sikh congregation, displaying 28 framed photographs of each of the murdered victims, each with its own lighted candle for the candlelight service. There were T-Shirts supporting Newtown which were being offered for a donation to one of the special foundations that have been set up to help the people of the Sandy Hook community as well as colored ribbons for everyone who attended the service.
A few things that stood out to me. First there was the unity of people of various faith traditions who had come out to pray and express their sadness and support as one community, together in a deep sense of tragedy and senseless loss of innocent lives. It also seemed to me that all week long since the tragedy and even until now there was a wide sense of society's awareness that what happens to one community happens to us all. Such a blow shakes us all with a sense of responsibility to do something meaningful to help ease the pain of others and that their pain is also ours.
A view of some of the colorful photos voluntarily taken and contributed to this post by professional photographer, Deb Mikan, are worth scrolling through them to get a sense of the evening.
There is so much more that needs to be said about what needs to be done to prevent mass violence such as we have experienced in Aurora, Tucson, Oak Creek and now Newtown, among others. Some are already working on that, right now including in Southington. Stay tuned.