Christians, Jews, Muslims and others seeking solidarity in a time of tragedy came together for a prayer vigil on 4 April at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Binghamton, New York, following a tragic neighbourhood massacre.
The church is located a few blocks away from the American Civic Association, where 41-year-old Jiverly Wong shot and killed 13 people before taking his own life last week. Redeemer is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“When something like this happens, we come together (as a) community and cling to our faith,” said the Rev Michele C. Fischer, Holy Nativity Lutheran Church, Endicott, New York.
About 130 people attended the vigil. Fischer said the shooting at the civic association “deeply affected the entire neighbourhood.”
Fischer, along with two pastors and a deacon of the ELCA, a Presbyterian pastor and a representative from the Broome County Council of Churches, led the vigil. Each took turns reading Scripture and offering prayer.
ELCA Deacon Barbara Hayden said she gets “goose bumps” when thinking about Lutherans, Jews and Muslims praying together at the vigil. Afterwards, worshippers gathered for a reception where “people could share their stories. That’s where healing begins…. We are blessed,” she said.
The vigil at Redeemer “provided a place of solace for local residents,” said Patsy Glista, an associate in ministry and Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) coordinator serving Upstate New York. LDR is a collaborative ministry of the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
“We give thanks for the care and compassion being provided,” she said. “Once again local Lutherans quickly responded to offer prayer and compassion to those whose lives have been (turned upside down), and to demonstrate Christ’s compassion for all people by promoting hope, health and wholeness for those impacted by tragedy.”
The Rev Thomas G. Olson, Christ Lutheran Church, Norwich, NY, spoke at a funeral service on 5 April 2009 for two Muslim women who died in the shooting. The funeral took place at a local Mosque in Binghamton.
“It was a privilege and blessing to be invited to speak by the imam,” Olson said. “We are all one with God,” he said. “We need to find ways to be together in community, especially in times like these.”