A Service of Hope and Healing

on Tuesday, July 08, 2014 Posted in Stories, Happenings, School Partnership Network

A Service of Hope and Healing
First came disbelief. Then the harsh reality. A week of frantic activity. This all too familiar scene played out once again at Reynolds High School on June 10, the day before school ended for the summer. The events on that Tuesday had left two young men dead, hundreds of other students and their families shaken, and the staff of both high school and the Reynolds District stretched to their limits. If there was ever an opportunity for SPN to make a difference, this was the time.

Fortunately, as a result of an ongoing relationship with SPN, key leaders in the Reynolds District office did reach out to ask for our assistance during this difficult time. Andrea Watson, the Chief Information Officer, made contact with our Executive Director, Larry Whittlesey, while he was on vacation in Southern California. Based on the relationships SPN had helped forge between the district's schools and the local faith community over the last 18 months, Larry was asked to help coordinate the Candlelight Vigil scheduled to be held at the high school just one week after the shooting.

Though he was 1000 miles away until the night before the vigil, Larry was able to work with Andrea and her team to pull together representatives and volunteers from various community organizations for this moving service sponsored by the Reynolds District. Several pastors from the surrounding community were asked to participate in the service by reading an appropriate scripture passage or saying a prayer. In addition, three soloists were asked to share their talents at the vigil, all alumni from Reynolds High, including one who had just graduated 3 nights earlier. Superintendent Linda Florence, Mayor Doug Daoust of Troutdale, Multnomah County Sheriff Daniel Staton, RHS Parent and Board Member Joe Teeny, Interim Principal Wade Buckley and graduating senior Rosie Reyes were also asked to share a few thoughts.

A crowd approximately 1100 gathered that evening for "A Service of Hope and Healing" just one week after the tragic events that marred the end of the school year. Each person was given a candle and a green and black memorial ribbon, made by Mountain View Christian Church, to wear that night in support of the school colors. Counselors from the Red Cross and Multnomah County were onsite, and representatives were there from all of the first responders who had raced to school upon the report of the shooting.

The highlight of the night was the lighting of the candles near the end of the service. Volunteers dispersed throughout the crowd lit candles of those around them as the song "Light the Candle" was sung from the platform. A sense of hope seemed to lift the spirits of everyone in attendance. Larry's closing words of encouragement were followed by the song "I Can Only Imagine" as the large crowd raised their candles in unison. It was a touching moment that will not soon be forgotten by anyone who was in attendance.