SCV faith leaders and organizations host a night to honor the lives lost in the Buffalo, Laguna Woods shooting
Editor’s note: The interfaith vigil at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was held on Sunday, two days before the shooting that killed at least 18 students and three adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
In response to recent shootings described as racially motivated hate crimes in Buffalo, New York, where a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others, and Laguna Woods, in Orange County, where a gunman killed one person, Santa Clarita Valley faith leaders collaborated for an evening to grieve and heal on Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
Members of the Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Congregation Beth Shalom, the Islamic Center of Santa Clarita, Higher Vision Church and the NAACP Santa Clarita hosted and welcomed all to “An Interfaith Vigil of Prayer and Lament for a Hurting World: Grieving Gun Violence, Racism & Hate.”
“We are so grateful to be able to host this wonderful event in the wake of the shootings in Buffalo and Laguna Woods over the last week, both of which were motivated by hate and enacted through senseless gun violence,” said the Rev. Christopher Montella of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Valencia, which hosted the event. “The members of these host organizations came together to seek a response.”
“Friends it is clear that there is so much work to do. We thought it was important to take a moment to stop and grieve the lives that were lost and lament our own pain and fear, to gather in community as we cast our eyes and our hopes on the sense of love and light.”
Rabbi Jay Siegel, Pastor Anthony Dorris and Imam Omaran Abdeen read prayers from the Jewish tradition, Christian tradition and Muslim tradition, respectively. Each faith leader shared a message of peace, tolerance and love.
“We come together to speak out against racism in all its forms,” Dorris said. “We come together to teach our children about the danger and the sin of racism. We come together to restore God’s given values of every life we encounter. We must come together to be a community that denounces racial violence with our everyday actions of love, kindness and peace to every neighbor with God’s help.”
Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP Santa Clarita, alongside the Rev. Christopher Montella, led a memorial candle lighting for the victims of the shootings: Aaron Salter, Celestine Chaney, Deacon Heyward Patterson, Geraldine Talley, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Katherine Massey, Pearly Young, Roberta A. Drury, Ruth Whitfield and John Cheng.
According to Cherise Moore, a member of the WIlliam S. Hart Union High School District governing board and the human relations roundtable, they were discussing a number of “important community priorities” when it dawned on them — they were working on bringing the SCV community together in the middle of trauma.
“I know that none of us knew those 10 people in Buffalo that were killed in a grocery store or the three women in Dallas at a hair salon who died by gun violence or the doctor who was killed in church in Orange County,” Moore said. “While none of us knew them, we could look at those pictures and I feel as if we could have known them.”
“It could have been any of us. These are everyday community places that we go to. We as a community are gathered here because we feel the pain of their loss. We recognize that it is something that we should not have to get used to.”
Montella continued the vigil with a litany for peace and change in the aftermath of gun violence with Cassidy Butow.
“We were created as one family and called to live together in peace,” Montella said. “May we lead with love as we face again the tragedy of gun violence.”
Those in attendance echoed the message, “May we be instruments of peace and change.” Siegel, Dorris and Omaran gave their closing prayers, and faith leaders invited those in attendance to light a candle in honor of the victims.
One by one, each person came up to light a white candle — a reminder of the life lost and a bright hope for the future.
The vigil is available for viewing at st-stephens.org or on Facebook, @StStephensSCV.