SUMMIT, NJ - Bringing a small, but powerful, light to combat the darkness of the previous 72 hours that descended on the Virginia city, the Summit Interfaith Council held 'Lights of Love for Charlottesville', a candlelight vigil which attracted a large crowd to the lawn fronting The Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Charlottesville was the site of a August 12 "Unite the Right" rally organized by white nationalists and the 'alt-right', which saw violent clashes between the white nationalist groups and those opposing them. and where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was tragically killed when 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. of Ohio allegedly drove his car at at high rate of speed directly into a group of counter-protesters. Multiple news reports have indicated that Fields, Jr. identified with white supremacist groups and their ideologies.
In addition, two Virginia state troopers -- Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates -- died when their helicopter crashed while performing surveillance duties related to the nationalist rally.
Coming just days after these tragedies, the 'Lights of Love' vigil had a relatively minimal window of advance promotion time, yet hundreds of community members were in attendance. Equally impressive was the event's demography -- young, old, women, men, families, a melting pot of race, religion and lifestyle.
In a word -- humanity.
They came to mourn and remember those lost in Charlottesville and the countless others before them who have paid the ultimate price while advocating for an inclusive, tolerant society.
They came to peacefully resist -- refusing to surrender to the rhetoric and actions of bigotry and hatred.
The came to reaffirm their commitment to create a world where one another sees the light in each other, even if that light is dramatically different than their own.
Through words, prayer and song they did all of that and more. As the sun set, the celestial light dimming with each passing moment, candles were lit creating a light that illuminated the assembled crowd and their vision.
The Reverend Caroline Dean, Associate Minister at Christ Church in Summit, crystallized the event's message when she said, "Friends and colleagues of many tribes, creeds and races -- Out of our fear and our grief, let us birth kindness and courage. Let us birth strength in community and resolve for the work ahead, And let us forgive and release the pain as we go out now... now holding of love in peace and hope. Amen."