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“Maybe if we listen to the Spirit, we as a town will be able to stay out of the depths of despair,” he said. “If we listen to the Spirit, there will emerge a beacon of light that can lead an entire nation.”

Crebbin said this was a fitting time for Forbes, who was leader of the Riverside Church on Sept. 11, 2001, but retired in 2007, to visit Newtown, which is about 60 miles northeast of New York City.

“He’s been able to share his insight about grief through his experience with 9/11,” Crebbin said. “In the midst of the grieving, we can’t try to fix the grief. We need to help with the grieving. It won’t be the same life.”

Everyone stood to sing “We Shall Overcome” as the service ended. Forbes, founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, walked down into the congregation to take the hands of those sitting across the aisle from each other and connected the crowd into one.