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Ministers: Hug your children
Vigil held in Martinsville for school shooting victims
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About 50 people took part in a candlelight vigil Saturday night on Fayette Street to honor the memories of the 26 people shot in a Connecticut school on Friday. Elder Alan Preston (third from right) helped organize the vigil. He was joined there by (from right) the Revs. Thurman Echols, Michael Penn (hidden) and Tyler Millner. The basket on the ground held candles which the participants lit as they prayed, sang and heard passages read from the Bible. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area ministers offered advice to parents during a local candlelight vigil Saturday night for the 26 victims of Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut.

About 50 people attended the vigil, held in front of Hairston Funeral Home on Fayette Street.

“Be all you can be to your children while you can” because you never know when you — or they — may not be around anymore, said Elder Alan Preston, pastor of Refuge Temple Ministries in Martinsville.

“Even when you have to correct them” for their errors, said Leon Hairston, associate pastor of The Galilean House of Worship near Martinsville, “make sure you make it right before they go to bed” by showing them love.

Hug them often, Hairston suggested.

Preston and area resident Penny Maddox organized the vigil in less than 24 hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were fatally shot.

“Our nation needs our prayers and some comfort tonight,” said the Rev. Thurman Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton.

The vigil was outside the funeral home because a memorial service was being held inside for area residents who died this year, Preston said. He thought that holding the events near each other was appropriate.

He and Felicia Preston, prinicipal of Albert Harris Elementary School, said everyone feels sorrow after a tragedy of such magnitude, no matter where it occurred or where they live.

“We pray that this (type of tragedy) never happens again, Alan Preston said.

To help with the emotional healing, he said, “the only thing we can stand on in times like this is God’s word.”

Asked if, as a principal, she is concerned about the possibility of a similar tragedy occurring locally, Felicia Preston said “you never know. Things can happen anywhere.”

“The best thing we can do,” she noted, “is prepare and pray that God watches over us and our kids.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to protect you,” Alan Preston told about a dozen children at the vigil.

After tragedies such as Friday’s shooting, the way people should remember the victims and show support for their families and friends is to “double our love and double our care” for our fellow human beings, said the Rev. Tyler Millner, pastor of Morning Star Holy Church in Axton.

Also among the crowd of people holding candles in memory of the children who died was Norma Patterson of Martinsville. She said she has grandchildren who attend Mount Olivet Elementary School and a son who is 19.

The shooter at the Connecticut school — who took his own life after the incident — was 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

“It’s hard to believe that something like this could have been done by someone that age,” Patterson said.

The crowd sang songs including “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and, with candles in hand, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine.”

Ministers at the vigil said there is a lot that people cannot understand about such tragedies, such as why God sometimes allows them to happen.

Echols said he is optimistic that God somehow “will bring some good out of this tragedy.”

“We will wait patiently” to find out what it is, he said.


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