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Interfaith vigil in Schenectady calls for hope amid gun violence

Interfaith vigil in Schenectady calls for hope amid gun violence

Event follows recent mass shootings
Interfaith vigil in Schenectady calls for hope amid gun violence
Rev. Phil Grigsby speaks at a prayer vigil in remembrance of the victims in El Paso and Dayton in Schenectady.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — “We’re here today to ride out a storm,” said Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs. “Because we’ve been in the storm.” 

She then led the crowd in song. 

Leaders in the faith community came together on Friday to call for peace a week after mass shootings left 34 dead in California, Ohio and Texas.

A crowd of approximately 50 people clutched hands at City Hall to call for an end to mass gun violence and try to find a way forward.

A half-dozen religious leaders recited scripture with the recurring theme of staying optimistic and confident in dark times.

“We’re here because we choose to be optimistic in a state of chaos,” said Lynn Carman Bodden, a parishioner at Emmanuel Friedens Church.

Genghis Khan, an imam of the Schenectady County Jail and a member of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate, asked attendees to be mindful that gun violence isn’t confined to highly-publicized mass shootings, but everyday violence “down the county road" and "up the hill.” 

“It happens everyday,” he said.

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER A prayer vigil in rememberance for the victims in El Paso and Dayton was held in front of City Hall in Schenectady Friday, August 9, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
A prayer vigil in
rememberance for the victims in El Paso and Dayton was held in front of City Hall in Schenectady Friday, August 9, 2019.

Dustin Wright of Rotterdam's Messiah Lutheran Church glanced at his fellow spiritual leaders and recounted all the times they've met following mass shootings.

Sometimes it is difficult to keep the faith. 

“Let us confess sometimes we do not have hope,” he said.

Mayor Gary McCarthy noted it was once unthinkable that settings like synagogues and churches would be host to violence.

“We don’t know the flaws in the human character which makes people act out in a flawed and violent way,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, urged the Republican-controlled Senate to act on gun control legislation, including passing legislation that would expand background checks for guns sold on the internet and at gun shows, and to extend the window for federal authorities to conduct background checks for gun purchases.

The Democratic-controlled House has passed both bills

Without naming him directly, Tonko lashed out against President Donald Trump’s strong language against immigration, criticizing his usage of words like “infestation” and “invasion,” and urged attendees to choose their words “wisely and kindly.”

Angelicia Morris, executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, noted after the event that 59 people were shot in Chicago last weekend.

The interfaith vigil was organized by Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association and Schenectady Clergy Against Hate and led by Rev. Philip Grigsby of Schenectady Community Ministries and Pastor Felicia Collins from Bethel AME Church. 

Grigsby said the event was an opportunity to pray, “but also move forward.” 

Collins urged the crowd to effect positive change in their communities. 

“The whole world is watching,” she said. “The question is: Are you ready for it?"

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