“Today We Are The First Church Of Las Vegas, Nevada”

Marcia Chambers Photo Branford’s clergy led a vigil on the Town Green last Thursday where Rev. Bill Keane (center)  proclaimed that “as far as I am concerned, today we are the first church of Las Vegas, Nevada.”

Mary Johnson Photo Rev. Keane, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Branford, told some 45 residents and firefighters who gathered at Town Hall for a candlelight vigil that he wanted to hold this service to “share our thoughts, a moment of silence and a short prayer from each of us.”  Five ministers representing a variety of churches in town joined him on the steps of Town Hall for the 25-minute ceremony.

In declaring unity with the City of Las Vegas, where the horrific acts of one gunman using automatic weapons took the lives of 58 (the gunman made 59) and left nearly 500 wounded at an outdoor country musical concert, Rev. Keane brought home the need to speak and to pray. 

Mary Johnson Photo “We are here to cry, to grieve, to console, to declare and to pray. We are here as clergy, not just for this moment but whenever you need us,” Rev. Keane told those assembled. “We are here because treachery has spoken so terribly and we are here because we know that God always has the last word for those who remain, and especially for those whose earthly lives were tragically taken away. We are not denominations; we are determined. We are disciples. We are people who know where when one is laid low, all of us suffer, and where any are victimized, all of us are in pain.”

The Kennedy Legacy

Mary Johnson Photo Among those gathered near the green was state Sen.Ted Kennedy, Jr.,  whose uncle President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated by a sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald as the president’s motorcade traveled through the streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963. John Kennedy was 46 when he was gunned down.

Kennedy’s uncle Robert Kennedy, Jr.  was assassinated five years later on June 5, 1968 while in Los Angeles campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination . He was 42. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near the grave of his brother John.

Last year in June a large crowd, estimated at 500 to 800, gathered at Town Hall to commemorate the victims of the deadly attacks at Pulse, an Orlando, Florida, based gay nightclub. The attack on June 12, 2016 orchestrated by Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53. It was aimed specifically at the club’s gay clientele.

At the Orlando event at Town Hall last year Sen. Kennedy spoke, emphasizing the need to address gun violence in a tangible way. “All of you know that my family has been touched by gun violence,” he told the audience.  Kennedy, who lives in Branford, represents the 12th District, which includes Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and North Branford.

“In a very public way, we’ve had to relive those moments on TV, in the history books. And what saddens me is how this epidemic of gun violence is impacting more and more families in America. And it’s really sad and it’s time to do something about that,” Kennedy said last year. This last remark was met with thunderous applause from the audience. 

Mary Johnson Photo This year only the clergy spoke. Like the others, Kennedy held a lit candle.  At the end of the service Rev. Keane asked everyone to link arms and to sing the first part of “Amazing Grace.”

Afterwards we asked Kennedy if he had thoughts to help console the survivors of the Las Vegas tragedy.

“It is so hard to find the words. It’s so heartbreaking that there are so many people who were taken from us. I hope it is consoling to their families and friends that there are places all across America like the little town of Branford that are coming together out of respect and concern. I hope that is consoling. ”
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