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Monday, July 15, 2024

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‘Light for Life’ Focus Was Dual Epidemics

By Helen McCaffrey

SOMERS POINT – As the world celebrated St. Valentine’s Day Feb. 14 with flowers, chocolates and romantic dinners, more than 200 people gathered in Somers Point in a more somber mood.
The event, held at the Somers Point United Methodist Church, was called Light for Life. The motivation for the gathering was to focus attention on the twin epidemics of suicide and addiction.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading cause of death in the United States for persons between 15 and 24 years old is suicide. Thanks to Gov. Chris Christie and other presidential candidates, national attention has been focused on the heroin scourge affecting communities across the nation including Cape May and Atlantic counties.
The service which was held in concert with The Bridge Wellness Ministry stressed the need for community outreach and healing. The service was ecumenical as evidenced by the denominational variety of speakers.
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Cain, a Unitarian Universalist and Rev. Thomas Stark, pastor of the host church began the service followed by a non-clergy member, Sandy McGarvey, who runs Bridge Wellness Services. McGarvey spoke of her own sufferings with clinical depression and the shame and despair she felt which delayed her seeking help.
Her message was that help and healing were possible but it had to be sought.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Perry of South Seaville United Methodist Church prayed the opening prayer and there was a reading in Hebrew of Psalm 23 by Rabbi Jonathan Kremer.
He was followed by Pastor Buff McNickle who said he wished he could tell the story of the Prodigal Son in Hebrew but he added his southern accent would have to do.
The speakers were interspersed with music performed by the worship team from Coastal Christian, and short videos.
Matt Stokes led the congregation in a personal reflection and the Rev. William Williams III of Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City delivered the keynote sermon after which those assembled were asked to read a Prayer of Confession which asked the Creator to “open our hearts.”
Christine Miller of the Mental Health Association spoke on what all major religions have in common and there were prayers led by Julie Million of the Buddhist Community of Shamong and Roman Catholic Rev. Christopher Onyeneke of Mission of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. His message was “Do not fear.”
The service ended with symbolic lighting of candles which each attendee had been given upon entering and a final musical offering of “This Little Light of Mine.”
After that all were invited for refreshments and to obtain information from various organizations engaged in the work of alleviating suffering caused by addiction, depression and the prevention of suicide.
To contact Helen McCaffrey, email hmccaffrey @cmcherald.com.

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