The Rev. ClayOla Gitane, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, places signs and teddy bears in memory of the 21 victims of Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

The Rev. ClayOla Gitane, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, places signs and teddy bears in memory of the 21 victims of Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Church hosts candlelight service for Texas school shooting victims

Prayer vigil tonight will include an interfaith service

SEQUIM — Following Tuesday’s school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the Rev. ClayOla Gitane, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, felt a need to do something to help locals grieve.

In a short span, she helped organize a bell-ringing memorial on Wednesday, the placement of a memorial on Thursday and a candlelight vigil tonight.

“I felt it was important to do,” she said. “This church is a voice of the community. I wanted to coalesce our lament.”

At 6:30 p.m. tonight, Gitane’s church, along with Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church and Trinity United Methodist Church, will sponsor a candlelight service inside St. Luke’s, 525 N. Fifth Ave., in Sequim.

Due to weather, the event is inside with masks recommended out of respect for the more vulnerable members of the community, she said.

“Our goal is to offer a time and place for lament for all in the community, no matter what their stance on faith,” Gitane said.

“We welcome the participation of everyone.”

The ecumenical and interfaith service starts with a song, a statement, a group prayer (with the words provided), candle lighting and the names of the 21 victims read aloud with a handbell rung after each name is spoken.

Afterward, participants are encouraged to walk St. Luke’s labyrinth to pray and reflect and/or write a prayer and tie it to the church’s fence.

Earlier in the week, Gitane and St. Luke’s Liturgy Planning Team agreed to stop its usual Winchester chime and hymn at noon on Wednesday and replace it with a peal, bell ring, for each victim in the shooting.

Participants of its Soup’s On free lunch on Wednesdays program stood for the three-plus minutes in silence to honor the fallen, Gitane said.

Gitane, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, said as a priest her job is to lead people in their lament and ask difficult questions.

“We have to ask ourselves hard questions and act,” she said.

On Thursday, Gitane made signs with each victim’s name, splattered them in red ink, and laminated them to place in front of the church’s sign. She said spreading the ink was emotional and difficult.

At press time, more victims’ signs were drying before being placed by the sign. A Thursday night service was also planned.

No information was available on Thursday about similar observances planned elsewhere.

For more information on the Friday service, call 360-683-4862.


Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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