Wiscasset spreads light of hope after Las Vegas attack

Posted:  Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 7:30am

First Congregational Church of Wiscasset UCC Pastor Josh Fitterling said the mass killing in Las Vegas Oct. 1 was senseless, but the victims’ lives were not lost in vain. Their light goes on, and people can help spread it in the Wiscasset community and around the world, Fitterling told church and community members at nightfall Oct. 4, three nights after a gunman attacked a sea of concert-goers from the windows of his hotel suite.

On a Wednesday night, the church bell would normally be quiet and the town common the church overlooks would normally be vacant, Fitterling observed from the church steps as about 60 attendees of a prayer vigil stood listening. But it was a time to interrupt the normal, because the killings were not normal and violent acts cannot be allowed to become normal, he said.

“We cannot become numb to tragedy. We cannot accept (such events) as part of the fabric of our world. If we start accepting these things as simply a part of life, how will the world ever change?” Instead, he called on those gathered to spread the hope symbolized in the candles they were lighting for one another in honor of those killed and injured in the Oct. 1 attack.

He asked if they noticed that as they lit them, the light spread quickly. It does that when people are together, he said. “In the end, darkness does not win. In the end, light will always overcome darkness. And we are a part of that ... We can help shed light into the world.”

The bell rang out 60 times from the church on the hill, for the lives lost in the attack and for victims of violence everywhere. Reading psalms of healing and leading a prayer, Fitterling also gave thanks for first responders who he said offer their lives in service to others, and for the courage and heroism of strangers in the midst of violence. He asked for healing of the wounded and the wounded hearts. “Bring love. Bring hope. In your many names, we pray. Amen.”

“Amen,” the group repeated.

Fitterling reiterated, they could all help. “There’s power in hope ... in sharing the good in the world. You have this power. We have this power. We can make the world a better place. We can help bring love and hope and peace into this community and the world. Keep sharing the light that you have.”

In interviews as they waited on the common earlier, attendees shared their thoughts. “I just think it’s a way of expressing the horror in a peaceful way, and being thoughtful,” First Congregational member Betty Applin of Wiscasset said about the vigil.

The attack was another tragic example of senseless killing, said fellow First Congregational member and Wiscasset resident Deb Olson, there with husband Karl Olson. “And (the vigil) is an example of Josh’s outreach beyond the walls of the church,” she said.

Beth Hood, minister at Union Congregational Church in South Bristol, attended with granddaughter Savhana, 13. Beth Hood said she and her congregation were devastated and looking for answers following the Las Vegas attack. Her granddaughter said it was going to be discussed at her school, South Bristol School, the next day.

“She will have this to contribute,” her grandmother said about the night’s gathering.

Closing out the vigil, Fitterling invited attendees to stay if they wished, to talk with one another. Most did, and several met with him. The church had announced the vigil one day earlier.  Fitterling said he was heartened at the response.