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Clergy groups plan vigil

Two local clergy groups are organizing a vigil this Sunday following last Sunday’s shooting at a church in Texas.

At the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, a gunman killed 26 and injured 20 when he opened fire in the middle of the regular morning service.

“We don’t want to just respond to what happened in Texas but everything in our community that seems broken,” said Pastor Matt Winters, pastor of Bethlehem Christian Church. “We want to stand together as the church of Suffolk and be a beacon of hope.”

Suffolk Clergy United and the Suffolk Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance are organizing Sunday’s Vigil for Hope and Unity, which will take place at 5 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School.

Winters said the program will include prayer, song and scripture readings. Visitors are asked to bring their own candles, whether traditional or battery-operated, and the group will light them outside if able.

Eight or 10 churches are represented on the program, and everyone is invited, Winters said.

The Rev. Les Ferguson of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chuckatuck said the vigil is a way of responding to how hopeless the world seems. Christians have a sense of hope that comes from the salvation of Jesus Christ.

“We want others to feel that same sense of hope,” Ferguson said. “Even if you don’t believe, even if you don’t follow what we believe, we’re all in this together.”

Winters said cards will be available for people to take and send to someone as an encouragement. Originally, they were going to be sent to First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, but Winters said people may know of people right here in Suffolk who need the encouragement, as well.

“Somebody in my neighborhood, somebody in my work, somebody in my life that just needs to be reminded that somebody cares about them,” Winters said as examples of someone who might receive a card. “We want to continue to try to share light and encourage those around us.”