About 30 people gathered at the First Church of Christ in downtown Milford Wednesday evening to pause and share their grief following the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday.
A line of luminaries, one for each person who died, stretched in front of the church, placed there Monday during a prayer service.
The Rev. Ashley Grant from the First Church organized Wednesday’s service, called A Contemplative Service of Healing, and she opened the gathering by talking about the place where she received her calling to the ministry, a place not far from Las Vegas.
As music played, Grant spoke about working with the Nevada Conservation Corps north of Las Vegas, an area that looked bleak compared to Vegas, with its lights and neon. But she said there was beauty in the raw nature and the calm, offering a time to reflect and pause.
In a poetic voice, she talked of the cottonwood trees there, broad-leafed and sheltering, alluding to all the strong people who helped during and after the shooting; she talked of the desert flora that offers splashes of vibrancy and beauty, which she said reflects the acts of love and kindness that offer comfort; and she talked of ephemeral springs, which will spring up because of rain or snow melt, bringing life where it seemed to be dried up, an idea that she said ties to the grace that is needed now.
The word selah is found in the Psalms, Grant said, discussing the theme of the service. “Many think it might have meant ‘to pause’,” she said. “Pausing and listening help us process this overwhelming amount of news, and allow us to recognize our own grief, to hear ourselves think.”
She said now is the time to pause and pray for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy.
Grant and three other Milford ministers led the short service Wednesday evening, offering prayer and song.
The Rev. Karl Duetzmanm from the United Church of Christ in Devon said it is time to pray for “those whose lives were viciously cut short.” Their names were read, one by one.
The Rev. Matthew Lindeman from St. Peter’s Church praised those who helped after the tragedy and continue to help, those on the scene who offered aid, the first responders, medical community, law enforcement, city officials and national leaders.
The Rev. Chris Files from Trinity Lutheran Church reached out to the religious communities in Las Vegas when he led the reading of church names in that area.
As those in attendance quietly left the service, they thanked the ministers for giving them a place to come together. One woman said the service was much like a funeral service, and the Rev. Duetzmann agreed that some of it was.
A church deacon said the service offered people an outlet for their anger, fear and dismay.
“It’s sad that we need to do this,” said Jamie Rude, deacon at the First Church of Christ, “but it’s powerful that we do. The alternative is despair.”