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Vigils offer chance to reflect  

Lizzie Lee, 56, of Lynwood, Wash., who was participating in her first Boston Marathon and 11th overall, holds a candle and a flower at Boston Common during a vigil for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Lizzie Lee, 56, of Lynwood, Wash., who was participating in her first Boston Marathon and 11th overall, holds a candle and a flower at Boston Common during a vigil for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Purchase photo reprints »

Vigils and less formal gatherings were held in Northampton and on the campuses of UMass Amherst and Hampshire College Tuesday evening.

The Rev. Todd Weir of the First Churches of Northampton said people often turn to such events when confronted with incidents of violence or disaster.

“People need a place to gather, talk and draw closer,” he said.

Weir said people often rely on their faith when confronted with violence as a means of lessening their panic and fear.

He referred to the Bible’s Psalm 23, part of which reads “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” as a common source of comfort for those affected by unthinkable acts in the world.

Rather than shake people’s faith, Weir said acts of grim and gruesome violence are often seen as an opportunity to reinforce it.

“We try to draw on our very long tradition of facing into the evil of the world with courage, compassion and strength.”

First Churches holds a vigil every Tuesday that has changed focus slightly from its beginning focused on war and U.S. drone strikes to one that has become a response to all acts of violence, Weir said.

Many who attend the vigils gather to grapple with the question, “What actions can we take to make the world a less violent place?” Weir said.

“We just try to raise our kids and be a place of compassion and acceptance,” he said of the church. “Violence isn’t the last word.”

The group Students for Peace organized a candlelight vigil to be held on the lawn of the Haigis Mall on Tuesday night.

The group said in a statement, “The events of the Boston Marathon were one tragic episode in an alarming and senseless trend of indiscriminate violence. The only way to combat the violence is to take ownership, as a generation, for the complexity and breadth of the issue.

“We must recognize the violence as a manifestation of countless cultural, social and political ails. No one of us knows what the answer is. We must uncover the answer together, and we must collectively take accountability for our participation in a society that gives rise to terror,” part of the statement read.

An intimate gathering at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence was held Tuesday evening for people to come and support each other while coping with their own feelings of “sadness and anger,” said the Rev. Janet Bush.

About 15 people came together for the opportunity to share their feelings and receive support from their fellow parishioners.

“For us, it’s about coming together in community,” Bush said.

Feelings about the marathon bombings seem to have more immediacy than some other highly visible acts of violence and destruction in recent years, because of their physical and emotional proximity to the area, Bush said.

“It does feel very close to home to a lot of people,” she said.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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