Candlelight vigil honors Newtown shooting victims

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 09:31 PM

Dozens of locals gathered Tuesday night at Sanford's Depot Park for a candlelight vigil commemorating the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and their families.

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., was one of the worst in American history — and was made even more poignant by the fact that most of the victims were young children. The age of the victims was a focal point of Tuesday's vigil, part of a national campaign organized by Charlotte-based Mothers of Murdered Offspring.

The ceremony consisted of a reading from scripture, religious and Christmas songs, and a short sermon. A wave of light rolled through the crowd as people turned to light their neighbors' candles just before a group of adults and children — some of them no older than the Newtown victims — read the names of the 26 people killed last Friday.

"As our candles are being lit, we are reminded the hope we have is found in Jesus Christ," said Brian Parker, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church.

Parker read the first few verses from the Book of John, Chapter 14, which he used to show that God has a place reserved for the victims of the massacre, and for all others:  "My Father’s house has many rooms," Jesus tells his disciples in that passage. "... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Bookending Parker's sermon were a scripture reading and prayer from Linda Smith, a member of the Lee County Board of Education who also serves as assistant pastor at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

Smith read Romans 8:35-39, which argues that no amount of violence or hardship can separate a person from God: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Both Smith and Parker prayed that God would keep the victims and their families in mind, with Smith also saying: "We pray that you will lift our spirits during this season ... and let us remember to show love to one another."