ALLENDALE, N.J. – Beth Whittam simply had to attend a candlelight vigil at Trinity Episcopal Church in Allendale Tuesday night for the victims of Sunday’s Orlando massacre.
“I wanted to stand in solidarity with other people against the darkness,” said Whittam, an Allendale resident and parishioner at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River.
“I felt like I wanted to pray specifically for each individual who died,” she added. “Each was a person in someone’s family.”
Some 35 people from different congregations attended the vigil, led by the leaders of six faith communities in Allendale, Saddle River, and Ramsey.
Key to the vigil, which featured readings and hymns, was the reading of the names of each of the 50 victims. After each name was uttered, a bell sounded.
Prayers were offered not only for the victims but for first responders, police and EMTs, therapists, coroners, health care workers and everyone who sacrifices to service the common good.
“We pray for the soul of the man who committed the massacre in Orlando, and for all considering similar violence,” one clergyman prayed.
Father Michael Allen of Trinity Episcopal Church said the ceremony came together through the Allendale Clergy Association.
“What happened hit a lot of people emotionally and very deep,” he said. “The gathering was comforting, filled with hope. This also was about lifting up the LGBT community, which is really hurting now.”
Allen and Rev. Jenny McLellan of Calvary Lutheran Church in Allendale said they share a passion for addressing gun violence and social justice.
In addition to Allen and McLellan, clergy who participated in leading the vigil were: Rev. David Baer, Highlands Presbyterian Church, Allendale; Rev. Tom Korkuch, Archer United Methodist Church, Allendale; Rev. Wesley Smith, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Saddle River; and Rev. Steve Huston, First Presbyterian Church, Ramsey.
The vigil ended with everyone singing “We Shall Overcome.”
“All night,” McLellan said, “I’m going to be hearing that song in my head.”