By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — The Dansville Area Ministerial Association held a Community Prayer Service at the Dansville Presbyterian Church for hope and healing.
On July 31 the community gathered to mourn in a safe place as five local ministers read scripture, prayers, and music for those who need it most. There was a candlelit service as well for those who wished to light one in the memory of the four lives lost. The Dansville Central students played a special song “You Will Be Found” for the teens and adult who recently passed in car accidents. Three hymns were sung by the community and students as a way to honor Emilee, Kyrstin, Justin, Ambra, and Rebecca’s memory.
The five ministers who came together for this community service were: Rev. Colleen Dick of Dansville Free Methodist Church, Pastor Katrina Macaluso of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Rev. Manilla Owen of Dansville United Methodist Church, Rev. Marcia Reiff of Dansville Presbyterian Church, and Rev. J. Eric Thompson of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
“We are absolutely thrilled to do this for the community. Our first thought was what can we do. My church had the most space for people to come for the service. We as the Dansville Area Ministerial Association wanted to put this together for the community,” Reiff said. “We have five pastors working together. We wanted to do this service together. We wanted a safe place for people to come. We wanted first responders to come and know how much we love and appreciate what they do. We have a lot of support for them in this hard time. They have had accidents, fires, and deaths all at once in this community.”
Reiff wants all the churches at Church Park to work together to be a safe place for the community to come for support in these hard times.
Owen said she has a teen of her own who just graduated high school, so she has a personal connection to this tragedy.
“It is very sad and hard. I have a teen of my own who just graduated high school. I have seen him make bad choices, but not have to pay this price,” she said. “We sent out an email to the churches on Monday. We planned this service on Tuesday. We pulled it all together for Wednesday. We all know each other’s gifts and skills. We all do multiple services together in the community.”
Owen added there are many who are grieving who feel they can’t go to the funerals, so this gives them an avenue to come and grieve at a community prayer service.
“There are many grievers who feel they can’t go to the funerals. They need time to grieve, and prayer is a way to move grief into a different stage. It is a way to give grief to God. It won’t take the grief away, but it is just a way to help. Funerals help people on the grief journey. Being alone is not a healthy way to grieve,” Owen said.
Dick has been at the church for about a year now and is very impressed by the support of the community.
“I am blown away by it. I have only been here a year. I am so blessed to see Dansville come together and be so supportive of one another. We are all hurting but this community loves and cares about one another. With many of the funeral services being private this allows the community to grieve and have closure,” she said. “This reflects unity of the community. God wanted unity in his churches. That is what He intended from his people.”
Macaluso said she is overwhelmed by the community support since the recent deaths of young people.
“I am so proud of Dansville. The community response is so overwhelming. There has been so much done in so little time. There has been a foundation formed, and hope has been born from this. This shows what Dansville is capable of,” she said.
Thompson added that the importance of bringing the churches together in this tragedy helps with the healing.
“One important thing is our different churches are helping to bring the community together. It doesn’t matter what church you go to. We are all loved. We are all their churches,” he said. “We have an organic relationship with the other churches. We decided to start Dansville Area Ministerial Association (DAMA) to show that we are all one. The community needs and opportunity to come together for a prayer service and grieve. We need to be Dansville Strong.”
Owen gave the first prayer for the ones we lost recently.
“Gracious God, we come before you this day in pain and sorrow. We grieve the loss of Ambra, Emilee, Justin, Kyrstin, and Rebecca, precious human lives. Give your grace to those who grieve, that they may find comfort in your presence and be strengthened by your spirit. Be with the family as we mourn and draw us together in your healing love; in the name of the ones who suffered, died, and rose for us, Jesus our Savior. Amen,” she said.
The Litany of Remembrance was read by Dick and Reiff as the community promised to remember those who had been taken far too soon.
The Prayers of the People was read by Macaluso as a way to grant God’s mercy for the lives of the children we lost in these tragic accidents.
Owen gave the last prayer for the ones we lost as a way to say goodbye for now.
“Holy God, your beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them. Help us entrust Ambra, Emilee, Justin, Kyrtsin, and Rebecca to your never-failing loving-kindness. Comfort us as we bear the pain of their deaths and reunite us in your good time in your Paradise; through Jesus Christ our Savior who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen,” she said.
Memory stones were given to those who wanted them as the community prayer service ended. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church stayed open afterwards for anyone who needed individual prayers. The five ministers were available to pray and anoint those who wished for it after the service. Dansville Central students and Hillside Youth were part of the choir throughout the service. Those who contributed materials for the service were Tops Friendly Markets, Rauber’s Town and Country Agway, and McDonald’s. The hymns were “Be Still My Soul”, “On Eagle’s Wings”, and “When Peace, Like A River.”