Southampton church to host vigil with call for action in wake of Florida school shooting

  • First Congregational Church in Southampton.

Published: 2/21/2018 2:15:44 PM

SOUTHAMPTON – The First Congregational Church of Southampton will be holding a candlelight vigil tonight on gun violence that will offer not only thoughts and prayers, but also avenues for action.

“We are all part of one body,” said Rev. Jennifer Valentine, pastor of the church. The vigil begins at 6 p.m. at the church, which is located at 212 College Highway.

Valentine said that a few weeks ago, during communal prayer time at First Congregational, parishioners began expressing a broad frustration about violence in the world, spurred by the shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, on Jan. 23. Valentine  said that this was in contrast with the personal matters that are normally shared at communal prayer time.

“It was about what’s going on in the world,” she said.

Then, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, Kathy Marks, the music director at the church, suggested that a vigil be held. Speakers at tonight’s event will include Selectboard member Maureen Groden, Jim Palermo, a Hampshire Regional School Committee member from Southampton, and Anne Thalheimer, a survivor of a school shooting affiliated with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The vigil will also contain pathways for people to take action, although Valentine noted that its purpose is not to instruct people to take political action.  Instead, she noted how coming together makes people feel stronger and empowers them.

“They’re braver,” she said. “They’re bolder.”

Information about student walkouts and national protests on gun violence, including the March for Our Lives set for March 24 in Washington, D.C., will be available at the vigil. There will also be contacts for gun safety organizations.

Additionally, there will be educational materials at the vigil about gun violence and how to talk to students who are concerned about the issue.

“Jesus did not just pray,” Valentine said, when asked about the importance of action. “He acted.”

Going forward, Valentine said that the church will be hosting a series of conversations based on essays on guns and gun violence and that there has been interest in starting a local gun safety alliance. 

“I believe that we can all work together,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at









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