Kalamazoo Comes Together at Community Vigil and Service of Remembrance [Video] [Photos]
A service of remembrance and candlelight vigil was held for the victims of the Kalamazoo shooter.
Hundreds packed Kalamazoo's First Congregational Church on Monday to grieve and remember. Regular churchgoers and those who seldom visit the sanctuary gathered to show their support for the victims and families of the weekend violence and, most importantly to affirm that this community must stand together and love one another.
Led by a number of clergy, city officials, pastors and philosophers, the ceremony began with Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell reciting the names of the 6 persons fatally shot on February 20, 2016.
A candle burned for each one near the altar.
Mayor Hopewell went on to say "I am not going to preach about guns because tonight is about them [the victims] but man, oh man, we have got to do something." He also spoke about his phone call with President Obama earlier in the day and encouraged everyone to "hug your children tonight."
The next speaker had us holding hands and then drew applause as she exhorted Kalamazoo not to live in fear but to live in love, to live in faith. A Bahá'í scripture was read prior to a Battle Creek pastor taking the pulpit to stand with Kalamazoo. A Latter Day Saints leader offered a lengthy prayer and observed "The only way to solve violence in the community is to root it out of our hearts." One of the most moving testimonies was from a Pakistani woman who came to Western Michigan University to study 35 years ago and never left the city she fell in love with.
The Litany of Remembrance was spoken in unison with those of us in attendance given the lines:
"We shelter within our hearts the memory of Tyler Daniel Smith and his father Richard Eugene Smith...we shelter within our hearts the memory of Mary Lou Nye and Mary Jo Nye...we shelter within our hearts the memory of Dorothy Brown and Barbara Hawthorne...we lift up the living victims of violence, especially the two unnamed women of this community."
A lighting of the candles ensued as the leaders, laity, clergy and civil servants of differing denominations, sects, faiths, churches and creeds all filed out singing "We Shall Overcome." As the crowd gathered in Bronson Park, the refrain changed to "We Are Not Afraid."
Tragic, senseless violence was visited upon the City of Kalamazoo but many found comfort in community.