Faiths come together to remember Newtown victims

Leaders say it's time to make a pathway of peace for children

POSTED: 11:36 AM PST Dec 21, 2012    UPDATED: 03:45 PM PST Dec 21, 2012 
Teddy bears labeled with each victim's photo ask for random act of kindness.
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- -

Early Friday morning, nearly 3,000 miles away from Newtown, Conn., Coachella Valley leaders, religious figures from all faiths, and school principals read the names of all 26 victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Mourners from across the valley paid their respects in a moment of silence, followed by a reading of the names and bell ringing at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.

"The fact that so many different people came together to mourn as a family is part of a healing process we all need to go through," said Congressman-elect Dr. Raul Ruiz.

Ruiz joined religious leaders Rev. Lane G. Hensley of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Father Howard Lincoln of Sacred Heart Church, Fr. Krikor Zakaryan of  St. Garabed Armenian Church, Rabbi Richard Zionts of Har-El Congregation, among many other Valley dignitaries.

"If we ring this bell and don't change anything else about the way we are leading our world, then these people have died for nothing," Rev. Hensley preached. "I think we can be real agents of change here. We've got all the real leadership to change the world right here."

Attendees were asked to bring a stuffed animal in remembrance of the victims, to be given to local children in need.

Betsy Stilwell, a pastor herself, and her neighbor, brought 26 stuffed animals with the face of each victim and a request tied to it.

Stilwell says one way we can continue to remember the victims is by performing 26 random acts of kindness.

"If we could do a little something for those people in Connecticut to let them know that we're thinking about them," Stilwell said, "or are with them, we wanted to do that."

The community gathered more than 50 stuffed animals that will be distributed through St. Margaret's Outreach Center in Palm Desert.

"I think it shows how much we are all together as a human race, how much love we have for each other," said mourner Wally Grimm of Palm Desert, "I would hope and expect that they would do the same if something happened here."

Dr. Ruiz echoed the feeling of many participants, saying, "This is the time to come together to show our empathy and compassion and determination to make sure this doesn't happen anywhere else."

St. Margaret's, located at 47535 Highway 111, will be open for vigil, prayer, and reflection from 5 - 7 p.m. on Friday, December 28th. All faiths welcome.

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