Churches to hold vigils for victims and families

Houses of worship are opening their doors in this stunned and grieving state to provide prayers and comfort for the heartbroken families in Newtown after clergymen spent the day trying to help families.

As news that a gunman had opened fire at Sandy Hook School, Pastor Robert Weiss and priests from St. Rose of Lima came to the scene to minister to children and families affected. Rabbi Shaul Praver, of Congregation Adath Israel and Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Twenty children and six adults were killed at the elementary school Friday.

While the tragedy was occurring, Mark Moore, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church opened his doors to people in the hours after the shooting and the Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Connecticut urged all its churches to do the same.

“We hold the victims, their families, and all who are affected by the shooting in our thoughts and prayers for healing and strength,” the three bishops, Rev. Ian Douglas, Laura Ahrens, and James Curry wrote. “We pray that those who have died will be held in the arms of our loving God whose heart aches for those affected by this tragedy.”

Special vigils are being held at St. Rose at 7 p.m. and at the United Methodist Church in Newtown, which is also close by the school will hold a vigil at 7 a.m. Regular Friday services with prayers for the victims will be held at Adath Israel and a vigil is being planned for Sunday.

Brian Wallace, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, said Saint Rose and other houses of worship are opening to try to do what they can to ease the heartbreak people are feeling. And this will touch many lives in Newtown, he said, and the Saint Rose parish, which has 3,000 members.

He said opening the churches is a way to help.

“In the immediate shock it’s to put an arm around them and pray with them,” he said. “It’s a moment that shakes your faith in life. People are so profoundly disturbed when the most innocent of us meet that fate. It so profoundly shakes people and I think priests are always asked why and if anyone can give an answer, they do in their own way.”

Other churches are also holding vigils.

Nichols United Methodist Church in Trumbull is holding a vigil at 7:30 p.m. and the Methodist Church in New Fairfield is holding a vigil at 7 p.m.

Rob Varnon