News and Views

Cranberry UMC offers prayers, support, following mass shooting

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on

By Erik Alsgaard

Following the mass shooting Sept. 20 at the Rite Aid Distribution Center in Aberdeen, the Rev. Tiffany Patterson knew what to do. That’s because she’d done it before, just 11 months ago.

The Washington Post reports that the Rite Aid incident started around 9 a.m. on Sept. 20 when Snochia Moseley, 26, allegedly entered the warehouse and began shooting. Killed were three people, identified as Sunday Aguda, 45, of Dundalk; Brindra Giri, 41; and Hayleen Reyes, also 41, both of Baltimore. Moseley turned the gun on herself before officers arrived.

Patterson, the pastor of Cranberry UMC in Perryman, started contacting her members, some of whom work at the nearby complex of massive warehouse buildings nestled between railroad tracks and I-95. She wanted to make sure everyone was okay.

She also reached out to her community.

Cranberry UMC is located less than a mile from where the shootings happened. By 7 p.m. that Thursday night, the church’s doors were open, candles were being lit by the altar, and people were sitting in the pews in silent prayer.

Linda Midwig, far right, stands with the Rev. Mark Gorman during a prayer vigil Sept. 28 at Cranberry UMC in Perryman. Photo by Erik Alsgaard.
Linda Midwig, far right, stands with the Rev. Mark Gorman
during a prayer vigil Sept. 28 at Cranberry UMC in Perryman.
Photo by Erik Alsgaard.  

On Friday night, Sept. 21, a prayer vigil was held on the front lawn of the church. About 100 people came together as prayers were lifted by Muslim, Jewish and Christian clerics, hymns were sung and candles lit. A community gathered to mourn.

“My heart breaks with grief for my Perryman community today in the wake of the mass shooting,” Patterson said. “Our community is shaken. There are many questions, and not many answers.”

In her prayer, Patterson lifted up not only the victims and their families, but the shooter and her family, too. She gave thanks for first responders, community leaders and agencies that worked together to save lives.

“Help us put our prayers into action,” Patterson prayed, “so that we work together to end gun violence and build a community of peace.”

After each petition, the congregation responded, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

The Rev. Ann Laprade, superintendent of the Baltimore Suburban District, spoke at the vigil and also brought a word of comfort from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Laprade thanked everyone for coming out.

“While, indeed, tragedies such as this one may bring us together,” Laprade said, “it is also the case that such tragedies may tear people apart. We could have chosen that path, but we are here because we know that love is stronger than hate and this is the way forward.”

Laprade read from a statement from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

“In this painful situation,” the bishop’s statement read, “we still have more questions than answers. We know that our brothers and sisters in Harford County are reeling from this news, and we know that families are being gathered to receive news no one wants to hear. They deserve our prayers. They need our support.”

For Patterson, who serves a two-point charge in Harford County northeast of Baltimore, this wasn’t the first prayer vigil she had organized following a mass shooting. Her other church, Presbury UMC in Edgewood, is near the mass shooting that happened at Advanced Granite Solutions on Oct. 18, 2017. In that incident, three people were killed.

Patterson started serving the charge on July 1, 2017.

The Baltimore Sun filed a short video report of the prayer vigil.