Wilton church offers temple letters of support in light of Pittsburgh tragedy

When the Rev. Shannon White, pastor of Wilton Presbyterian Church, heard about the recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, she quickly reached out to Rabbi Rachel Bearman of Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown.

“I texted her to see how she was doing and offer my solidarity and support,” Rev. White said.

Members of the church also responded by writing letters to temple congregants with messages of prayers and encouragement. “I knew members of our church would want to do something immediately,” said Rev. White, who hand-delivered the letters to the temple.

In what’s been deemed the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States, a lone shooter killed 11 people and injured nine at the Tree of Life Synagogue during Shabbat morning services in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, leaving the country stunned and in mourning.

Rabbi Bearman said the temple appreciated the letters, which were written by adults and children. “It was a concrete representation of friendship, that everyone in our community was not alone in this moment of real pain and devastation,” she said.

Temple members are coping in different ways, Rabbi Bearman said. “This was a tragedy. While we have people tangentially connected to Pittsburgh, the Jewish people are an extended family. While we may not have known them, they were our people,” she said.

Rabbi Bearman was so moved by the letters, she posted a message on Facebook, saying, “This afternoon, TBC received ‘love letters’ from our friends at Wilton Presbyterian Church that contained beautiful messages of friendship. We are so grateful for the kindness and support of our interfaith community. Knowing that we are surrounded by so many people who care about our congregation is a beautiful blessing.”

Rev. White said feelings were heavy at her church on Sunday morning, the day after the shooting. She read a special prayer at service and lit candles in memory of those who had died.

She even changed the sermon she was planning to give in order to address issues raised by the tragedy. She told the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus who shouted out to Jesus as he was passing through his town, asking for healing. People around Bartimaeus were embarrassed and told him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus kept calling out to Jesus who restored his sight. “The message is, how is it we are blind to things that go on around us? How can we have greater understanding and sight and not allow ourselves to be silenced when healing needs to occur? How we can be a healing example and beacon of light and love?” she said.

To provide a show of solidarity, there will be an interfaith community Shabbat service, tonight, Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at Temple B’nai Chaim at 82 Portland Avenue in Georgetown. The service will include refreshments.