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Minister: Newtown Church Service to ‘Mend Hearts’

A U.S. flag flys at half-staff as vehicles drive on Main Street in downtown Newtown, Conn., as the sun rises the morning after a gunman opened fire inside a nearby elementary school, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. The man allegedly killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday inside the Sandy Hook Elementary school, massacring 26 people, including 20 children. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(AP Photo / FILE)

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A minister at a worship service honoring the victims of last month’s deadly Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting says the town has a long journey ahead and destiny lies in residents’ ability to be united.

The Rev. Matt Crebbin is the senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church, where about 300 people gathered Sunday night. He says the gathering serves “to heal and mend hearts” broken when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

The church service also honored the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A former leader of one of the country’s most prominent liberal Protestant churches planned to speak at the service. The Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. was the first black minister to lead New York’s historic Riverside Church and retired in 2007.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., who led one of the country’s most prominent liberal Protestant churches, planned to speak in Newtown at a worship service Sunday night honoring the victims of last month’s school shooting and the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forbes was scheduled to deliver a sermon at 7:30 p.m. at Newtown Congregational Church.

His talk comes a day before the federal holiday in honor of King, and a little more than a month after a gunman shot to death 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S history.

“It is fitting, on this weekend, when our nation honors the service and sacrifice of Dr. King, that we gather in worship to honor the service and sacrifice of the persons who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy,” said the Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior pastor at Newtown Congregational Church.

Forbes hopes to offer words of hope and healing, reminding people that the body knows how to grieve, he said in an interview Thursday. He said he will also talk about the power of community and faith.

“We live in individualized cubicles, but we also discover that in times of crisis, community is an indispensable element for healing,” Forbes said. “It’s amazing how naturally in times of crisis we pull together.”

Forbes’ will call for a transformation of communities, echoing King’s call for transformation in the wake of extreme violence during the civil rights movement 50 years ago.

“And it could be that Newtown may in some curious and mysterious way open up the possibility of a new America when it comes to the issue of violence and how we handle it,” Forbes said.

Forbes is senior minister emeritus of historic Riverside Church in New York City. He was the first black minister to lead the church. He retired from there in 2007.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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