Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 21, 2012

Light in the shadows of loss

Blue Christmas service pays tribute to students, teachers killed by gunman

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Emily Smith and Mary Alice Kaufman served as acolytes Thursday night during the Blue Christmas service Thursday evening at Trinity United Methodist Church in Bluefield.

Before moving through congregation to light the candles of those gathered for the service, Kaufman and Smith lit 26 candles at the foot of the Trinity altar as the Reverend Susan Rector read the names of the students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., who were killed by a gunman one week ago today.

Many in the congregation watched the flickering flames of the candles burning in one hand as they used their other hand to brush tears from their cheeks. She read the names: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Bardon, Rachel D’Avino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Nancy Lanza, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt.

“Tonight ... It’s hard,” Rector said. “Tonight, we don’t know what to tell our children. Tonight, we don’t know what to tell ourselves.”

After reading the names, Rector said: “We thank you for the children of Newtown and we thank you for the children of Bluefield.”

The service was brief. Rector led the congregation in prayer. Jack Kaufman sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” accompanied by Marty Chaffins on piano. The Reverend Stephen Rector and Craig Hammond, executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission lit four candles near the altar representing grief, courage, memories and love. Stephen Rector then lit the Christ candle.

Susan Rector said that her husband came upon the service a few years ago, and said she has been holding it biennially to help people dealing with loss.

“We already had it scheduled for tonight before what happened in Newtown, Conn., last Friday,” Rector said. “We thought this might help people.”