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Manteca Anglicans recall Bethlehem, Newton tragedies

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Video of a Vigil Service at Manteca’s St. Mary the Virgin Anglican church in memory of the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook School.


POSTED December 29, 2012 3:15 a.m.

On the surface it might have seemed that the service Friday night at St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church memorializing the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary came a tad late.

By the time that Deacon Lee Johnson got up in front of a small gathering of parishioners and recited a 12-page homily that described in detail each of those killed in the tragedy that shook the country, two weeks had officially passed – enough time for funerals and national moments of silence and coordinated efforts across the country to honor those that were slain.

But Friday’s service had a special meaning – a Biblical connection in remembrance of “The Massacre of the Innocents” in which Herrod the Great executed all of the infant males in Bethlehem to thwart any attempt on his throne as the Roman appointed King of the Jews. Those that were killed are considered the first Christian martyrs, and according to Johnson, out of the darkness and horror of that day light emerged.

Jesus Christ – believed to be the true King of the Jews – escaped to Egypt and avoided Herrod’s wrath.

“It’s  something that’s so senseless and tragic – we try and imagine the sorrow of the mothers of Bethlehem,” she said, quoting from the Gospel of Matthew – ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ “All over the world this year we saw and imagined the sorrow of those mothers of Connecticut – refusing to be comforted because they are no more.

“We imagined the sorrow of those fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents and faced the realization that evil is so profoundly real. Is there any comfort for these mothers of Bethlehem or these mothers of Newtown? There is – the one that got away.”

Johnson was emotional as she closed the ceremony – reading off the names of each of the 26 victims and giving a brief description of what they were like before a gunman entered the school and changed the small New England community forever.

She talked about 7-year-old Daniel Barden – who lost his two front teeth in his fearless pursuit of happiness.

She mentioned 7-year-old Josephine Gay – who enjoyed riding her bike up and down the street and setting up lemonade stands in the summer.

And she talked about 7-year-old Jack Pinto – the avid sports fan who was laid to rest in the jersey of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Pictures of each of the victims were adorned on a card with a description. Johnson encouraged each person in attendance to take one home with them and pray for the families and those deeply affected by the tragedy.

“Two weeks ago I watched with horror and tears and these names and faces have been etched into my memory,” she said.

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