Saturday December 15, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Hours after an elementary school shooting in Connecticut on Friday afternoon, about 30 people gathered at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church for an evening candlelight vigil to mourn with the rest of the nation the loss of innocent lives.

The Rev. Tim Weisman said he felt a "gut need" to open the church doors for an impromptu service in downtown Pittsfield. He sent an e-mail to his congregation, and the left side of his church was filled five pews deep for the short, 45-minute service.

Weisman said he didn’t recognize about half in attendance.

Pittsfield resident Dee Gardiner was one of the many who felt a need to pray and mourn, her arm wrapped around her friend’s 9-year-old granddaughter.

After the service, Gardiner said, "Parents, hold your children close."

Three females who gathered after the service expressed disbelief.

"I don’t think there is a way to interpret this," Barbara Landry said.

"Why?" Sue Phelps responded. "I think there are just questions."

Aldam said that she came out to the vigil because "you believe in the power of prayer. Short of going there, this is the next best way."

Even though the shooting took place across state lines, Aldam said that she keenly felt the loss as the mother of a 16-year-old and 12-year-old.

"There isn’t a parent who doesn’t feel this," Aldam said.


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Throughout the night, the motley congregation listened to the hymn, "Come, Ye Disconsolate" and concluded by listening to the song, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."

Together, they read a short prayer prepared for the night.

"We come questing why, knowing we have no answers. We come filled with anger. O God be with us this night. Heal our broken hearts. Comfort us. Give us hope. May we find strength in the community that gathers here tonight to sustain us in the days and weeks ahead."

Then one by one, the few dozen people stood up and picked up a candle that was taken back to their seats, while others knelt on their knees to say a prayer up in the front of the church.

Weisman was notified around 1 p.m. about the shooting and he said he experienced an intense shock.

"I think it was important to have a space open in the wake of the tragedy today and to be in community with others and share that grief," Weisman said.

Unable to express her sorrow in any other way, Aldam said that she would pray for the victims.

"That’s where faith comes in. You just have to have faith."