The First Congregational Church of Darien was filled to the rafters on Wednesday, Dec. 19, as the community of Darien came together to pray for, remember and honor those who died in the massacre in Newtown.
The service was opened by the Rev. Dale Rosenberger, pastor of the First Congregational Church, with the reading of the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 and an invocation.
"Our purpose tonight is about healing," he said. "We're all looking for answers, and those answers are bigger than ourselves."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson offered a greeting, saying she was at the service for the town of Darien, to keep it safe. She also said, as a mother, she went to hear words of hope. Newtown, she said, is a quiet, sleepy, little New England town like Darien.
"We all feel our own unique connection to Newtown," Stevenson said, ueging the residents to enjoy the comfort of being together. "We realize just how intertwined our lives really are."
Religious leaders from the Noroton Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's Church, St. Thomas More, St. Luke's Church, Talmadge Hill Community Church, Darien United Methodist Church and Calvary Baptist Church offered prayers for the children who died, the teachers and administrators, the first responders and counselors and the town and government officials. They also read from Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew and Luke and John and orchestrated musical responses of "The king of love my shepherd is," an ancient Irish melody; "From the new world," largo from symphony; "I heard the bells on Christmas Day"; and "There is a place," by John Bell.
"There is a place" was the first hymn performed, and the Rev. Paul Murphy of St. Thomas More said he thought it a rather fitting hymn. Bell composed the hymn in the aftermath of the 1996 Dunblane School massacre in Scotland where 16 students were killed.
"[Murray] didn't want Dunblane to be remembered for a tragedy but rather a place from which a champion was born rather than a tragedy," Murphy said. "A place where light triumphs over darkness. May this hymn serve as a reminder that darkness cannot overshadow the light."
At the end of the service, the congregation sang "Silent Night" before placing roses into three baskets in remembrance and condolence. The roses will be brought to Newtown later next week.
Rosenberger closed the ceremony with a benediction.
"We cannot promise that bad things will never happen for in this world of freedom, beautiful and terrible things will always occur," he said. "But you will never be so powerful on our behalf than when we are at our weakest. Do not fear, always believe."
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