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Local News

December 17, 2012

Area churches offer solace after shooting

Praying, singing a children’s song, lighting candles and revisiting scripture lessons were among steps area congregations took Sunday to try to cope with the massacre of 20 children at a Connecticut school Friday, local clergy said.

Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults died after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. Days later, three local clergy said their sermons tried to address parishioners’ heartache and numbness and questions about “what to do.’’

“I’m still reeling myself,’’ said the Rev. Mark Ioset, minister of the Church of Christ Uniting in Richfield Springs. Parishioners include retired teachers and school administrators who expressed “deep sadness’’ about the incident and frustration that even the most modern security measures aren’t “good enough’’ to guarantee safety, he said.

The shootings took not only the lives of innocents entrusted to the care of others, Ioset said, but also the innocence of those children who survived.

“We need to be especially mindful of the loss of children,’’ he said. In tribute to the children, the congregation sang a verse from the familiar children’s song, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,’’ Ioset said, and members prayed in part as an outreach to the Newtown community.

“Prayer connects us across the miles,’’ he said. “It’s certainly a spiritual bond.’’

The church is a congregation of United Methodist and Presbyterian members. Ioset said the ability to gather as a community — people supporting each other — provides a healing environment.

The freedom of religion in the United States provides important access to houses of worship, where people may freely go and find a place to reflect and remember those lost after such incidents as the shootings in Connecticut, Ioset said.

“We need holy space to help provide that remembrance,’’ Ioset said.

The Rev. Dale Ashby of the Colchester Community United Methodist Church and East Branch/Harvard United Methodist Church said he set aside a sermon written last week to focus Sunday on addressing “the heartache of this tragedy.’’

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