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North Shore religious community offers prayer, support for Sikhs

Congregations reach out to victims' families, survivors of temple shooting

Aug. 8, 2012

"People never think it will happen in their town," begins Rabbi David Cohen in a letter to members of Congregation Sinai in Fox Point. "Less than 48 hours ago, it happened close by, in Oak Creek."

These words, mirroring the shock which emanated from Oak Creek on Sunday when 40-year-old Wade Michael Page opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, killing six worshippers before being gunned down himself, were the beginning of what he hopes will be a healing process.

"It's a chance for people to come together and talk and pray about this horrible tragedy," Cohen says.

His congregation, which stands "in silence and in solidarity with the Sikh community of Milwaukee and the community of Aurora, Colorado," will come together and offer prayer for the victims of the recent shootings at the commencement of their Friday service.

Sunday a united day of prayer

Meanwhile, the Rev. Tim O'Brien of Mequon United Methodist says he and his congregation are dealing with what he terms "a great sense of sorrow" in the wake of the shooting. His church, along with many others throughout the state, will join in a day of prayer this coming Sunday called for by the Wisconsin Council of Churches.

"The WCC and our Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Church hope that next Sunday will provide an opportunity for Christians to pray for the victims, their families, and for the Sikh community, which has experienced much tragedy and hardship in this country since the September 11th attacks," writes Bishop Linda Lee of the Wisconsin Conference UMC in a letter to churches around the state.

"I would expect that, given the people we have, many of them will head down to Oak Creek as well," added O'Brien.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro of Congregation Shalom in Fox Point, distraught over the loss of life, that, in his words, "someone could think life is not precious," has begun incorporating the Sikh community into prayer services, and says a portion of this week's Sabbath will be dedicated to prayer, reading and meditation for the victims and survivors of the shooting.

"We want to spiritually and physically reach out to the Sikh community to show them that we are connected," Shapiro says. "Such horrible things can cause the communities of humanity to coalesce and come together to make life better."

It could happen anywhere

In the back of his mind, says the Rev. Michael Henrichs of Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church in Whitefish Bay, uncomfortable questions are forming after the shooting.

"Aside from the heartbreak over what the Sikh community is experiencing," Henrichs says, "it does for me briefly bring to mind our own security here."

He notes that "we always make a point of welcoming everyone," and that looking out for men like Page "just isn't our mentality."

Though he's contemplating asking his ushers to "have an eye open," those thoughts are just that at the moment. He and his congregation, like so many others throughout the state, throughout the world, will have something else on their minds this weekend.

"We'll be praying for the victims," Henrichs says, "for their comfort and peace during these tragic times."

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