God will 'wrestle the light from darkness,' pastor tells heartbroken congregation
A woman receives a hug as she leaves a morning service at Trinity Episcopal Church not far from the Sandy Hook School December 16, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut
December 16th, 2012
09:18 PM ET

God will 'wrestle the light from darkness,' pastor tells heartbroken congregation

By Eric Marrapodi and Kate Bolduan, CNN

Newtown, Connecticut (CNN)– The bulletins were printed on Thursday for the third Sunday of Advent for Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown. There was no mention of Friday in the pages' long order for worship.

By Sunday morning, the church was hosting its fourth service since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the sanctuary had been open for 72 straight hours keeping vigil.

A half-empty pallet of tissue boxes greeted church members as they arrived in the front hallway. As the second of the morning's two worship services got underway, people were already quietly weeping in their seats.

Young children sat and quietly played or colored next to their parents, unaware of the tragedy around them or that their friend Benjamin Wheeler, a 6-year-old who attended Trinity with his family, was not there. Wheeler was among the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook on Friday when a gunman burst into his elementary school.

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Pastor Kathleen Adams-Sheperd recounted to the church how she spent Friday at the fire station, waiting with the parents of elementary school children to find out if their child had made it out safely or was among those who did not.

"Friday in some part has changed our lives forever," she said in her sermon as she stood in the middle of the congregation, eschewing the pulpit for proximity to her members.

Speaking to a crowd still raw and still suffering, she told them of the sermon she had prepared and how it was long gone, asking them to be patient with her as she preached with no notes.

On this day, she said, it was "important to be where we are," to be "present with people." She encouraged them to hug one another.

"No, really, get up and hug someone," she said. Old and young, visitors and members, embraced tearfully.

"Families of our lovely innocent children need our prayers," she said. "Families who survived need our prayers."

"I want you to know talking to the ones who have lost, the one spot of joy is that your children are not lost."

Adult men from the church were posted at the doors this week, she said, so the children in the service and Sunday schools would know this was a safe place for them.

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Dressed in purple vestments and wearing a small stud nose ring, Adams-Sheperd walked the church through pieces of the planned Advent service, when Christians light four candles in the four weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

"I believe faith will save us," she said. "To loose this faith is to let the darkness win."

"Was God absent from our world?" she asked, a burning question on the minds of many in this heartbroken town.

"Indeed not."

"Have we been shaken? Yes. Have we seen hope? Yes, yes, yes."

She pointed to the hero teachers who shielded children, administrators from the school who rushed toward the shooter, and the first-responders as evidence of that hope.

"So many signs of hope and light in the darkness that seems to envelope us; that's what Advent is," she said.

She said she believed the horrific acts were not the will of God.

"Where was God? Surrounding all the children. The 430 that made it out, and the 20 that did not."

God, she said, "was with them, is with them, and will be with them always.

"God will find a way to bring comfort and hope and light. He will wrestle it from the darkness."

In the coming days the church will see multiple funerals, including for little Benjamin Wheeler on Thursday and for another classmate, 6-year-old Madeleine Hsu, on Friday. Adams-Sheperd told the church local funeral directors had donated costs of the funeral to the families.

Cameras were not permitted to film the worship service but the church welcomed reporters to come and worship. Adams-Shepard explained to the crowd she would not go on camera and talk to reporters because she had given her word to the victim's families, and that what happened in the school is "owned by the parents."

She told the congregation if anyone was holding any enmity in their heart it was time to let it go.

"I'm done. I love you. Pray, everyone," she said. And with that she turned to prayer and recited the name of each victim.

CNN's Jeremy Moorhead contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Episcopal • Violence

soundoff (604 Responses)
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    November 27, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  2. Prophet Maximization

    The True God requires and helps those needing recovery to go the "way" that has the greatest "truth" and greatest value to "life" – the intent and purpose of the law.

    The False God wants games, contests, conflict, and war which leads to the way of "Leviticus 26", "Mathew 24", "7 Seals", and "The Book of Enoch" where the one who imitates God will have his angels melt. This is evident in the lack of planning to avoid the economic crisis that will cause the problems listed in "Leviticus 26".

    February 2, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  3. Political will on gun control and sledge hammer fist on gun runners

    “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”=FALSE!

    A man in China attacked and 'INJURED' 20 children using a 'KNIFE'.

    A man in connecticut attacked and 'SLAUGHTERED' 20 children and 6 women and a man (himself) using (3) 'GUNS'.

    I wish people are not too blind to see the 'HUGE' difference.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      Yea. What a bunch of morons. We need to immediaitely ban:

      Cars: they certainly kill people
      Matches: Sure. They have killed people
      Anti-freeze: check.
      Drain cleaner: check
      Fertilizer: double-check


      December 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  4. was blind, but now I see

    The parable is as follows:

    Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
    But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

    But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

    So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

    He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

    But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

    Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
    —Matthew 13:24-30, Holy Bible: King James Version
    The word translated "tares" in the King James Version is ζιζάνια (zizania), plural of ζιζάνιον (zizanion). This word is thought to mean darnel (Lolium temulentum),[2][3] a ryegrass which looks much like wheat in its early stages of growth.[4] Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy,[4][5] suggesting that the scenario presented here is realistic.[6]

    A similar metaphor is wheat and chaff, replacing (growing) tares by (waste) chaff, and in other places in the Bible "wicked ones" are likened to chaff.

    December 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  5. Al

    Why would so many people on this blog, especially the militant atheists, mock the faithful of Newton while they grieve for their children and loved-ones? As far as I know, some of them aren't even in the ground yet. This is not rational, helpful, or kind behavior.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      I would answer that, but then I would be a "hater".

      December 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  6. Tony

    Bwain, what color of glasses is your god wearing today? And what color are you wearing?

    December 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.