It had been five days since the schoolroom slaughter in Connecticut. But still there were tears to shed, to seek that stillness, that peace beyond all understanding.
At 7 o’clock Tuesday evening, more than 50 worshipers did their best to fill the pews in the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church for a Service of Prayer and Solidarity for Sandy Creek Elementary in the Connecticut community of Newtown and all victims of violence.
In the pews, The Rev. Larry McRorey had strategically placed teddy bears, if any youngsters in the congregation wanted or needed them.
For the adults, comfort would be sought in hymns such as “In Grace and Aching Sorrow…”
…and from prayers, led by McRorey and five other members of the Beeville Ministerial Alliance. Prayers for the children at Sandy Hook; for the school’s teachers and staff; for first responders, living with their own issues of witnessing horrors they must not describe; for parents, with agonies of indescribable depth and facing them alone; for religious leaders and houses of worship who try their best to help, sometimes just by being there; for the mentally ill; for victims of violence and for the nation itself.
To the left of the altar, an Advent wreath with candles the latest lit, rose colored. According to the liturgical candle, the color for the third Sunday of Advent is rose, to celebrate joy.
For a congregation but five days removed from abject horror, to celebrate joy was a tall order.
On the altar proper, 29 candles at the base of a simple cross. “Twenty eight represent the lives that were lost in last Friday’s shooting,” McRorey explained. “The large, single candle in the center represents all the lives known to God who have suffered and died as victims of violence.”
In the pews, mothers and fathers who brought their children seemed to hug them a little closer, and the youngsters didn’t mind.
Somewhere, many miles removed from Beeville, 28 parents would give their bodies and souls for the chance to give one more kiss, one more hug.
As tradition would dictate, one of the hymns at Tuesday’s service was “Amazing Grace.”
In another few days, another hymn might seem equally appropriate. The tune, an old English melody; the words by William Chatterton Dix:
“What child is this, who, laid to rest…
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.