During the Advent season, when so many await the coming of the light which triumphs over darkness, our hearts also lift up prayers for all the families who suffer – directly and indirectly – from the effects of violence.
In response to an incident at a school December 14th, 2012, many Americans joined together in candle-light vigils all across the country. Candles were lit at worship services on Friday and on Sunday, and special vigils were also held on Saturday and Monday. On the San Francisco Peninsula, the weekend’s vigils culminated in a special service bringing together local faith communities, Monday at 7pm at Burlingame First Presbyterian Church. Lori Haas, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor, summed up her feelings in an email call for these vigils, thusly:
Today we are all witness to an unspeakable tragedy. Five years ago, my daughter Emily was in French class at Virginia Tech when a gunman opened fire, killing her teacher and 11 of her friends and classmates. Emily was shot twice in the back of the head, but survived. We can’t let this continue. Now is the time for neighbors to comfort one another, keep the victims of the Connecticut tragedy in our hearts, and call for a plan to end gun violence. I personally will be demanding a plan to end gun violence—condolences are not enough. By coming together and lifting our voices, we can help prevent this from ever happening again. Tomorrow (December 15th 2012) at 5 p.m., I’m hosting a candlelight vigil in my neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. I hope others around the country will join me and make this a national moment of mourning, reflection, and resolve to act. Can you host a vigil in your community tomorrow evening, Saturday, December 15, around 5 p.m., to remember the victims and call for a plan?
Some of us are old enough to remember the Take Back the Night vigils, which began in 1975 in Philadelphia in response to a senseless murder, and which then grew into a movement. There were certainly vigils after Virginia Tech and other tragedies. Perhaps you have experienced the mixture of mourning and peace that accompanies a public vigil (such as the lighting of 27 candles for the 27 victims on Friday, here pictured). Or perhaps you have lit a private candle, or quietly sent up simple prayers for peace, hope, and healing. All of these actions are important, and any time is a good time to begin.
In this season of hope, we recognize that hope is an active and conscious choice, and that our actions do, indeed, make a difference in our world. May these vigils will also grow in power and effect, so we may find common ground, working together for a more nonviolent society. May all God’s children will be safe and warm at Christmas and throughout their lives.