Prayers for grieving Sandy Hook one year on
As the grieving citizens of Sandy Hook and Newtown, Connecticut get set to commemorate the first anniversary of the tragic shootings in the local high school, the staff and members of Walnut Hill Community Church have outlined their plans to pray for the healing of their traumatised community.
It is a year to the day since 20 children and six adults died when 20-year-old Adam Lanza rampaged through the school, firing a semi-automatic rifle before killing himself.
Speaking on behalf of Walnut Hill, Adam DePasquale, Pastor of Regional Development said: "There are a number of wonderful remembrance services taking place in the community over the next few days.
"As we began praying and preparing for this season, we felt God's leading that we were to take the servant role of intercessor. In many ways, this is how we were led in the firehouse on that day one year ago."
Although speaking with people has been an element of the support, DePasquale said a lot of it had been about being a presence and quietly interceding for affected families, asking for God's "mercy, comfort and strength".
He said the simple prayer of the community was "Come Lord Jesus. Come with your hope. Come with your peace. Come with your joy. Come with your love. Come and visit our community this weekend."
The church will be spending time praying for families and officials by name.
"The burden of our hearts is that God would release fresh grace and that 12/14 will be different because the God of the universe touched hearts and lives," he said.
He continued: "Within a few hours of the shooting, hundreds of churches, organizations, companies and individuals contacted the church to offer prayer and support. A church-based ministry fund was begun and to date nearly $200,000 has been received to aid the healing and rebuilding of the community by enabling and supporting long-term community, counseling and school initiatives"
These initiatives have ensured that families directly impacted by the shooting have been supported emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Outward-focused, Christ-centered home groups have been strengthened and mobilised, while a strategic, long-term healing initiative with the town of Newtown is underway.
Relationships have been established that are enabling the local church to walk with families most impacted by the tragedy for the rest of their lives.
Plans have also been established to enable the work of restoration to continue for the next 10 years.
"We are thankful for visits from new and old friends, including author Philip Yancey, the Burpo family (behind the Heaven is for Real book), worship leader Graham Kendrick, Pastor Brady Boyd and the Desperation Band (New Life Church), author Dr RT Kendall and international speaker Kay Warren (Saddleback Church) - all of whom came almost entirely out of their own generosity," DePasquale added.
"Thousands received encouragement through their visits, and we praise God that more people surrendered their lives to Jesus at Walnut Hill Community Church in 2013 than any other year."
Family members were among those present at a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on Thursday.
''One year after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we Americans still live with the epidemic scourge of gun violence,'' the Cathedral's Dean, the Reverend Gary Hall, said.
The service was held in remembrance of all victims of gun violence in America.