Boston Faith Leaders Share Music, Words of Peace at Marathon Vigil

Boston Marathon vigil attendees light candles at the conclusion of the service at Arlington Street Church on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

Religious leaders from Boston’s Back Bay area offered words of peace, faith and strength for those struggling to cope in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing during an interdenominational service and candlelight vigil held Tuesday at Arlington Street Church in downtown Boston.

Held just two blocks from where two explosions Monday afternoon left three dead and around 146 people injured, the church vigil drew a crowd of several hundred who filled pews and balcony seats to hear music, poetry and prayer.

The Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie, Arlington Street Church’s senior minister, welcomed the crowd and asked anyone who had run the marathon or been involved in the race to stand and be recognized with a long round of applause.

“Yesterday our city was terrorized. Today we gather, heartbroken and angry and afraid,” Harvie said. “But one must not give in to the varying emotions at the root of terrorism. With our presence here at the heart of our heartbroken city we are saying that love is bigger than anger, love is bigger than hate. Love wins.”

Harvie prayed “for all those suffering, for peace in our city and for peace in our hearts.”

The Rev. Sue Phillips, district executive for the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, spoke of the horror of the prior day’s events in a prayer.

“We are on our knees in awe and supplication for we have remembered the incomprehensible value of every human life,” she said. “We have heard the thrum of helicopter blades and wail of sirens. We have smelled the ash and smoke. We have seen the blood-splattered sidewalks and the ravaged bodies of your children. We cannot unsee. Help us, dear God.”

The service included several musical selections including “Imagine,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Amazing Grace” and the hymn “Breathe In, Breathe Out”—written in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, associate minister of First Church in Boston, read Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things.”

Others who spoke included Catie Scudera, interim minister at Arlington Street Church, and several members of the congregation; the Rev. Rob Mark, pastor of the Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street; Rabbi Howard Berman of the Central Reform Temple on Newbury Street; the Rev. Stephen Kendrick, pastor of First Church in Boston; and the Rev. Father Alex Oneto, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Old Catholic Mission.

Berman read from the diary of Anne Frank: “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals. They seem so absurd and possible to carry out. Yet I keep them because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Following the service, the crowd filtered outside to the Boston Common with lit candles, lining up around the small lagoon and singing a medley of songs including “Lean on Me,” “Down to the River to Pray” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

South End resident Karen Rheinlander was among the crowd at the vigil and said she was encouraged to attend by her son, now a Burlington, VT resident who was formerly a member of the Arlington Street Church.

“I liked being with everybody,” she said.

Newton resident Kim Wilson said she appreciated the music.

“[My favorite part of the service was] all of the music and everybody joining in song. Especially the part about breathing in peace, breathing out love—that was really, for me, the most meaningful.”

Cambridge resident Chris Doer said just felt he should be there.

“I think it’s just important to be present. I’m not particularly religious, but I think just being present at such an event—it’s important to show people your support,” he said.

Brighton resident Jim Ruggiero said he felt it was important to honor the spirit of the Boston Marathon and its people—those who participated in the race and those who stayed to help after the bombings—and that the interdenominational service did just that.

“Whether you’re of faith or not, I think it was important for people around the world to see that level of diversity and spirit of come-togetherness that Boston actually has,” Ruggiero said. “We’re a strong city, we’re a resilient city, and we celebrate and honor all of our folks.”

Jamaica Plain resident Donald Schultz ran his first marathon in November. Though he wasn’t in the race Monday he felt the impact of the tragedy.

“As a runner, I’m angry that this happened,” he said. “That someone could take an event that was meant to be a great event and just make it horrific. It just really saddened and angered me.”

Like many have since Monday, Schultz shared an experience of nearly being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I was at mile 22 and left to go back to my apartment and I debated whether to go left to go home or go straight to the finish line. My heart and gut was like, ‘I’ve got to go home.’ And like 10 minutes later it happened,” he said.

South End Patch