Pastor Larry Bradford had a Christmas message ready for Sunday’s service at Woodbridge Community Church, but once he heard about the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., he decided to ditch his original sermon.
Bradford canceled the planned singing, music and children’s classes due to the tragedy in Connecticut.
“When the news came to me, it broke my heart,” he said. “We came up around d the altar and held hands.”
At 6 p.m. Sunday, Bradford led a 30-minute candlelight vigil on the grass area so that people driving by on Lower Sacramento Road between Woodbridge Dam and Woodbridge Road would see them.
The approximately 40 people who braved the chilly, windy weather Sunday were given a white candle that was inserted in a Styrofoam cup.
“When the news came to me, it broke my heart,” Bradford said at the vigil. “It was an evil incident. This was the work of the enemy, but out of this evil incident, there will be good.”
Pastors throughout the Lodi-Galt area reflected on the 27 people Adam Lanza allegedly killed before pulling the trigger on himself. Here are some local comments:
Brandon Ware, St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Lodi: “It is so hard to find the right words in the face of such a tremendous tragedy. I simply reminded our community that we are people deeply convinced of the power of prayer. It is what we are all about each and every Sunday.
“I then asked our community to try something a bit different. I sat down and together, we prayed three decades of the Rosary, one Hail Mary for each of the victims, naming each of them as we prayed. Nothing extraordinary, just prayer.”
Joseph Anderson, Lodi Stake President, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We are all shocked and saddened by the shootings which took place in Connecticut this past Friday. Our hearts and minds are filled with sorrow and grief for the loss of human life and the tragedy that has impacted so many families. We pray that the spirit of our Heavenly Father will provide peace and comfort for every family mourning the loss of loved ones.”
Ann Kerr, Lodi LDS Church member: “The women in Lodi Third Ward met together in their Relief Society, where the lesson was “Raising Families in These Perilous Times.”
“Teacher Heidi Nobman held up her smart phone to show a picture of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was killed in the Connecticut attack.
“Nobman has four small children, and the class could feel her pain, but added, ‘Emilie’s father is an incredible example of how we can make our influence felt for good despite the perilous times we are living in. Parker’s actions and words make him an anchor in his community. Others will be drawn to him and feel secure.’ ”
Guy Marquardt, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lodi: “Many adults complain that Christmas isn’t
as joyful for them now as it was in their childhood. And it is reported that some residents of Newtown took down their Christmas decorations because ‘they just didn’t seem appropriate anymore.’
“Our children need to be taught to find joy, not on the surface of the Christmas holiday, but in the eternal truths behind the symbols. More than presents and the pretty lights on the tree. They need to see Christ, who is the Father’s gift to us and the light of the world.
Lori Sawdon, First United Methodist Church, Lodi: “The incident was not of God’s doing. Jesus means God saved, which in biblical meaning is healing and wholeness.
“Sadly, we often act out our own brokenness on other people. So Jesus comes to offer us healing in our brokenness.”
Matt Duerr, Zion Reformed Church, Lodi: “A lot of people are saying that God is the God of love. How did he let this happen? My answer is it’s not fair to ask that. We’ve asked Him not to be here.”
Duerr referred to an increasing secular world where worshipping in public places and posting The Ten Commandments on government buildings are banned.
“One of the scariest things about God is that he is accommodating. If we don’t want him to be our God, He’ll accommodate us. We got what we asked for.
“Someday, God’s going to say, ‘I’ve had it,’ and Jesus Christ will come back — Judgment Day.”
Mark Price, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi: “In Advent 3, the theme is joy — rejoicing the Lord. We had the task (Sunday) — how do we rejoice in the Lord in the face of tragedy?
“To rejoice in the midst of our grief is to witness to the joy which children bring to our world. This time of year, many children will be in schools, church pageants and parades. Go to the children’s events and be healed by those events.”
Price noted that the greatest death toll was in the 1920s in Michigan, although dynamite was used instead of a gun.
Bill Cummins, Bear Creek Community Church, Lodi: “We live in an evil world. The whole purpose of the church is to change people’s hearts so that they do not commit evil. The purpose of church is to bring hearts of love.
“Until we reach everybody, there will always be evil people doing evil things. There are 400,000 Christian churches in America. If every church in every town (spread Christ’s Word), we can reach everybody. Not every church is doing that.”
Chris Townsend, Emanuel Lutheran Church, Lodi: “There are no words to describe the pain being felt by those of you who are suffering. At Emanuel and throughout the Christian community in the Lodi area, our hearts and prayers have and will continue to go out to you and those who directly suffered in both these tragedies (also Friday’s tragedy in China, where a man stabbed a woman and 22 children).
“These terrible incidences have caused many people to ask the question, ‘Why? Why did God allow this?’ You are invited to join the Emanuel Lutheran Church community as we spend time in worship on Wednesday at 7 p.m. trying to come to an understanding of why. Emanuel is at 1540 W. Lodi Ave.
Jim Stickney, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lodi: “On Dec. 28, the calendar of the church year observes a particular day called ‘The Feast of the Holy Innocents.’ It’s the day the church is invited to remember those babies who were put to death on orders of King Herod, in case Jesus was there. The terrible deaths of innocent children make us cry out in revulsion, whether it happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, or three days ago in Connecticut.
“As you and I struggle to make sense of the gunning down of 20 children as well as several adults, we know this atrocity was certainly no accident. True, it has revealed a fatal flaw in the gunman, but this young man was certainly not any kind of tragic hero.
“Sentimental preachers might even say that God needed more angels in heaven. I certainly won’t be saying anything like that — we need our little angels right here.”
Cliff Shirk, elder, Beth Hallel Messianic Fellowship, Lodi: The shootings in Connecticut weren’t discussed during Saturday’s service because the fellowship had to cut its service short due to a scheduling conflict with Vinewood Community Church, where the Beth Hallel service was held on Saturday. However, Shirk gave his thoughts in a phone interview on Sunday.
“It was an evil thing that he did. He wasn’t sick. God allows evil things to happen. My relatives in Europe — most of them were killed in the Holocaust.
Shirk said that principals and some teachers, provided that they are properly trained, should be allowed to carry guns on campus to protect children.
“If the principal and counselor (in Newtown) were armed, it would have saved lives,” Shirk said.
Rick Keiser, Family Life Christian Church, Galt: When he heard the news Friday, he threw out the sermon he had just finished preparing for Sunday.
“The Advent conspiracy is about doing something different and quietly rebelling against what our culture tells us to do — shop, shop, shop.
“I preached on the fact that there’s hope for a better day. In the Book of Genesis, Joseph talked to his brothers after being sold into slavery. He said you meant it for evil; God meant it for good.
Judy Robbins, Galt United Methodist Church: “It’s real tough. You spend three days of crying seeing it on TV. It’s real tough when you spend three days of crying seeing it on TV. There are a lot of teens and young adults in our society who are suffering. We don’t want to fall in fear because of the evil in the world.
“My real concern is mental health issues and to make sure they have the resources. It’s really hard when you have a special-needs children.”
Members of the congregation are sending condolence cards to Sandy Hook Elementary and to a Methodist church in Newtown.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.