Local residents came together Monday evening to listen, to pray, to sing and to light candles as clergy from Herkimer and Mohawk led a service of healing and hope at the First United Methodist Church of Herkimer and Little Falls.
The service, organized in response to last Wednesday’s shootings that left four men dead and two hospitalized, included readings from scripture followed by silent meditation and prayer.
“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle,” proclaimed a message projected onto a screen in the front of the sanctuary. The quote was attributed to Robert Alden.
“God’s love leads us beyond our fears, sorrows and doubts,” said Rev. Janet Gleason, pastor of First United Methodist Church, who offered a welcome to those in attendance.
Before reading Psalm 23, Father Mark Cunningham noted one of the heroes of last week was a dog named Ape and suggested the letters of the dog’s name could stand for the words “Animal Protects Everyone.” He encouraged his listeners to donate to the Herkimer County Humane Society in Ape’s memory.
Sister Mary Jo Tallman, of Blessed Sacrament Church, acknowledged in her prayer the “why we may never grasp,” and prayed for comfort for the families of those killed and the healing of those who were injured and for “renewed hope of a world without violence.”
The congregation joined in singing “Come Thou Almighty King” and “On Eagles’ Wings.” Jerry Plows presented a solo, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and Mike Gleason sang “Beyond the Sunset.”
To close the service, Rev. Janet Gleason invited worshippers to light their candles and sing “This Little Light of Mine.”
“Light in the darkness is a powerful symbol of hope,” she said.
A second verse was added to the traditional song: “Shine all over Herkimer, I’m gonna let it shine. Shine all over Mohawk, too, I’m gonna let it shine. Shine all over God’s creation, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
“We needed this,” Patricia Crozier, of Herkimer, said when the service was concluded.
Jessica Schaffer, of Herkimer, said the service “brings the Mohawk Valley together as one… to let everybody know we came together as one and that we do care and want to be a peaceful and connected community.”
“I think it’s good they had this for all the people and for all who got killed,” said Kevin Dunn, of Herkimer.
Diane O’Donnell, account manager with the New York Penn Blood Service Region of the American Red Cross, said a blood drive was conducted at the church Monday afternoon prior to the service and the drive met its goal.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think about the trauma victims who needed blood,” she said. “One out of every 10 admitted to the hospital will need blood.
She encouraged local residents to donate blood.
“You never know who you’ll be helping,” she said.
O’Donnell said she has cards available for anyone who would like to give blood in honor of a particular patient. She noted the First United Methodist Church hosts a blood drive every 56 days.
Dick Gloo said he thought the service was “phenomenal” and a good way to bring people together. “It was very nice and very well done,” he added.
“It’s great to see how everyone came together from all faiths,” said Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth. He added people have come together as a community. “That’s how we’re going to get through these difficult times. The Mohawk Valley is still a great place to live and raise a family and we want people to know that.”
“It was a wonderful way to bring people together to offer support after a dark week,” said Herkimer County Legislator Gary Hartman. “It’s comforting and offers hope that we can get through this together.”
“The tragic events of last week affected so many people,” said the Rev. Ann Zimmerman. In addition to the impact on the shooting victims and their families, “it also impacts the whole community.” She said while the river divides the villages of Herkimer and Mohawk, “we’re all the same and we wanted to do something together. We are journeying together in this loss.”
Early last Thursday morning, Zimmerman said, she called Rev. Gleason to see if she would be interested in working on a service that would involve both communities and local faith leaders. The clergy they contacted were also willing to take part.
Some children also attended the service. Chloe Plows, whose dad sang a solo at the service, nodded when asked if she had liked the service. She said she her classmates spent part of last Wednesday in lockdown at Frankfort-Schuyler Elementary School. Her sister, Charity Plows, said she was in lockdown at the middle school. The lunch period was hurried, she said with no trips to lockers and the students watched movies while waiting to be released.