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Londonderry gathers for Las Vegas vigil

Union Leader Correspondent

October 04. 2017 10:08PM
Karen West, of Londonderry, lights a candle during Tuesday night's vigil for peace and hope honoring the victims of the recent violence in Las Vegas, and hurricane tragedies in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/Union Leader Correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — In the wake of shooting at a Las Vegas music festival, spiritual leaders in Londonderry called for their fellow Granite Staters to be “people of hope” and press for fruitful conversations with lawmakers to pass meaningful reform to prevent future violence.

On a cool Tuesday evening, the Rev. Colin Chapman of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church said he prayed for families who have not heard from their loved ones or those displaced. He mourned the lives lost in Nevada and asked for gunowners to see the goal is not to trample on their rights, but rather gather the courage to do what is right.

“We pray for ourselves, who find ourselves in a state of shock and confusion; for we who know goodness and see hurt,” said Chapman, at the vigil for peace and hope at the Londonderry United Methodist Church.

Both the Methodist and Episcopal churches hosted the event.

“We had an opportunity to participate in a service that truly means something to all of us,” said Rod Mattson, a Stratham resident who lived in Londonderry for 40 years. He and his wife Bev, the organist for the Methodist church, both attended the vigil.

The Rev. Amy Alletzhauser, of the Methodist church, organized the impromptu vigil in light of the mass shooting over the weekend in Las Vegas, the worst in American history, as well as the recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

At least 59 people are dead and more than 500 injured following the attack at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Houston and Florida were slammed by hurricanes Harvey and Irma respectively earlier this season, and Puerto Rico continues to recovery from Hurricane Maria.

“We’ve had one disaster after another, haven’t we? It’s just been every single week,” Mattson said. “It’s so hard to describe the tragedy, and this is one way … we can worship together and mourn the loss of life.”

While about 25 people attended the last-minute vigil, Alletzhauser said what matters is they gathered together.

“From our fragmented world of our everyday lives we gather together in search of wholeness and community, Alletzhauser said. “We are not alone and they are not alone. We cherish our oneness as a greater community and like the generations who have gone on before us, we gather to nurture the hope that can illumine a way forward.”

The church filled with the sound of organ music as the congregation shared lyrics of peace and community spirit. Chapman prayed for the lives of the victims of natural disasters, terrorism and gun violence.

Karen West, a Londonderry resident who is a member of the Methodist church and secretary at St. Peter’s, helped light the candles. She said it was important for her family to attend the vigil.

“It’s the right thing to do, we need to support the world,” she said. “We don’t know anybody that was affected in any of the disasters in the past few weeks, but in order for there to be any peace we have to be here to support everybody.”

Both churches are collaborating with the Londonderry Police Department to bring aid to Puerto Rico. While a list of needed items are available on the church websites, those on the frontline say money is most needed right now for disaster relief efforts.

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