The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 16, 2012

Questions of "why" and "how" fill church in Connecticut town

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Six-year-old Jennifer Waters came to Mass on Sunday at Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church with a lot of questions.

"The little children, are they with the angels?" she asked her mother as she fiddled with a small plastic Sonic the Hedgehog figurine on a pew near the back of the church. "Are they going to live with the angels?"

All across this postcard-perfect New England town, children and adults alike had questions: How could a merciful and just God allow something like Friday's massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed the lives of 20 children — none older than 7 — and six adults?

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel wanted to make one thing clear to the classmates of 6-year-old victim Noah Pozner: "This is not an act of God. This is an act of a crazy man."

As police work to learn why 20-year-old Adam Lanza would kill his mother and attack an elementary school, residents of this close-knit town of 27,000 sought solace in each other's company and in the presence of God.

The Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street, was at the Sandy Hook firehouse with the families who lost children and has conducted services and counseling sessions since. Her church will host two children's funerals this week, but on Sunday she projected calm as she spoke of questions unanswerable "in human terms."

She began a sermon with thanks in many directions — for far-flung clergy "who just got in the cars and drove here to help," for congregation members who pitched in, for the town's first responders who rushed to the school. Her own son is a firefighter who was there.

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