NEWTOWN, Conn. – As Newtown, Conn. continues to mourn and bury victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Southern Baptists alongside other denominations are offering light in the midst of darkness.
John Revell, pastor of Stamford Baptist Church in nearby Stamford, Conn., described Newtown as under a “heavy, dark cloud.”
“The most important thing you can do right now is pray for the people. They are hurting in an unimaginable way,” Revell said.
Last Friday (Dec. 14), 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother at home, then drove to the elementary school and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.
“It’s clear that people are still in the process of trying to come to grips with the magnitude of this tragedy … [and] are still in a state of shock,” said Revell, who has attended many of the funerals and memorial services as a chaplain to the town’s law enforcement officials.
A makeshift memorial in Newtown infuses its ray of hope into the traumatized Connecticut community in its loss of 20 elementary schoolchildren and six teachers. Among those providing chaplaincy care in Newtown are Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
And it is “a very, very tumultuous time here,” Revell said. “A lot of people don’t realize just how, how active it is around here with the media and the out-of-town guests. The people are just absolutely swamped.”
Revell said he is praying that after the media and others are gone, ministry to Newtown residents will continue and that people will have the opportunity to begin considering matters of faith and healing.
Southbury Baptist Church, serving as a command center for the Southern Baptist response team, hosted a planning meeting Tuesday (Dec. 18) evening to gain insight in ministering to the community.
“The hope of our churches in the region is to meet the emotional and physical needs in this time of crisis and to open the door for sharing the gospel,” pastor Bryan Bruce said. “As time goes on, the needs will likely change but the hope is that ministries will adjust to meet the new needs and have an ongoing witness.”
Most of Southbury’s outreach has been to first responders.
“For them and everyone in the area, it’s hitting hard,” Sims said. “Now is a time for people to be praying for hearts that are grieving and broken.”
Churches may send donations to the Baptist Convention of New England’s Victim Relief Fund at 87 Lincoln St., Northborough, MA 01532.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has declared Friday (Dec. 21) a statewide day of mourning, asking residents to observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. and churches to ring bells 26 times during the observance in honor of each life taken. Malloy has also written letters to all governors in the U.S., asking each state to participate in the observance.
“Let us all come together collectively to mourn the loss of far too many promising lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Malloy said in an official statement.
“Though we will never know the full measure of sorrow experienced by these families, we can let them know that we stand with them during this difficult time.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)