CAMDEN — In the wake of two recent mass shootings, local faith leaders joined with State Rep. Vicki Doudera for a vigil on the Camden Village Green May 26, and the message was not only one of mourning, but a call to hope and fight for the future by making changes in our society.

“We are facing the existential question of whether we will truly invest in the values of creating welcoming, just, safe, diverse and empowering communities, especially for our children,” said the Rev. Ute Molitor of First Congregational Church in Camden. “This work is our shared work, and we must, and we can reclaim the hope that change is possible.”

About 35 people attended the vigil in response to the two recent mass shootings that have made national headlines. On Tuesday, May 24, a gunman shot and killed 19 young students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This killing rampage came close on the heels of a racially motivated shooting spree that left 10 dead in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

The Rev. Michelle Wiley rings a bell as each victim’s name is read during a vigil on the Camden Village Green on May 26. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

The entire vigil can be viewed on video on Facebook. It is posted at the First Congregational Church of Camden Facebook page.

“I want to give you the sobering reality that firearm fatality is now the leading cause of death of children in the U.S.,” Doudera said. “We have just surpassed car accidents as guns being the reason that children die.”

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, speaks at a vigil on gun violence held May 26 on the Camden Village Green. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

She said Maine is not immune, noting the recent death of a two-year-old girl from a gun wound received in a fight over a T-shirt.

Doudera called on people to contact their state reps and seek better laws to promote gun safety. She noted that good legislation has been passed, including her bill to make sure guns are locked up and safely stored, but she said those good laws can go away if we change administrations.

Several members of the faith community were involved in the vigil, which included reading the names of each of the victims and ringing a bell to remember them. A statement from local Reverends will be published in our opinion sections online and in the June 2 print editions.

The Rev. Wendy Anderson of Nativity Lutheran Church in Rockport offered an opening prayer.

The Rev. Patty Fox of First Congregational Church in Camden read a poem.

The Rev. Patty Fox reads a poem. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

The Rev. Michelle Wiley of John Street United Methodist Church in Camden and the Methodist Church in South Thomaston offered a closing statement.

Doudera also read a letter from Camden area Superintendent of Schools Maria Libby, which was also signed by other school administrators, which states as follows:

“We can understand why children today live with far more anxiety than in years past. Not only is global climate shifting, not only are wars raging, not only is our government faltering, but there was also another school shooting yesterday at a Texas elementary school. We get it.

“There is no question we live in a country that has a gun violence problem that has become a school shooting nightmare. It is as scary for school administrators as it is for parents to be responsible for student safety within this reality. Have we prepared adequately? Are any students falling through the cracks? Are all the doors that are supposed to be locked, actually locked? Are guns locked away in parents’ homes? Would a student tell us if they read something concerning on social media? Are we all paying close enough attention – to everything?

“Our hearts break for the families in Uvalde, just like they did for those in Parkland and Sandy Hook and Columbine and everywhere in between. For those who lost children, for those whose children witnessed the terror, and for those all over this country who will live with a little more fear about sending their children to school. We don’t know how or why this is happening. In our country. We are at once flabbergasted, angered, and totally disheartened. How are we allowing this to keep happening to the children of this great country? Where are our priorities as a nation?

“The future rests in the way we treat and raise our children. This school system will continue its focus on student mental health, building strong relationships, and helping every single student know they belong in our school community. We will also make sure we have buttoned down the hatches and remain ever vigilant. Additional safety features we have in place include:

● Keyed access to doors, locked during the school day.

● Bullet resistant glass on doors and windows at entrances.

● Panic buttons to alert law enforcement to a crisis.

● Security cameras.

● Safety drills for a variety of potential situations.

“We are wise enough to understand this could happen in any community in the US. Together, perhaps we can prevent it from ever happening here. Parents, please pay as close attention as we do. We know there are guns in our homes, especially with Maine’s hunting tradition. Please make sure all weapons are safely stored in locked locations and your children only have access through an adult. Watch what happens on social media. Speak up if you have concerns. Let’s pray for those who lost their lives or loved ones and for the entire Uvalde community, and let’s make sure we are all in the background, doing what we can to protect the children in our community so that we never become a part of these harrowing statistics and so that our children can continue to grow up and thrive in our idyllic small towns in Maine.

“Together with superintendents, principals, educators, and parents across the US, we must remain insistent that this madness ends.”

Yours, Maria Libby, Superintendent

Shawn Carlson, CHRHS Principal

Jaime Stone, CRMS Principal

Chris Walker-Spencer, CRES Principal