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Playing and praying through the pain: Newtown grieves together

David Friedman / NBC News

Three local children wait to hand out donated stuffed animals to other kids leaving services at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtwon, Conn., on Sunday.

NEWTOWN, Conn. — As people filled the pews of churches on Sunday, seeking answers to the violence that claimed 28 members of their community and sending prayers to their families, a group of athletes also gathered to meet on the field and support one another through their pain.

At Trinity Episcopal Church, Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd read the names of those who were killed at the school on Friday, including some children who belonged to the congregation. Another prayer was said for all of those touched by the tragedy.

“I believe that faith will save us, faith in God, in one another, in community, in humanity,” Adams-Shepherd told them. “None of us alone will find the answers we need to this unfathomable tragedy that has unfolded, that has taken away our innocence … our answers will come as we gather together and just be together.”

Some people cried during the packed service. Near the end of it, three girls walked up to the altar and placed shepherds in a small nativity scene.

Adams-Shepherd told them that each person there carried a light of hope that they needed to spread around and share. She asked everyone to pitch in however they could this week, whether it was baking or cooking or something else.

Residents of Newtown mourned lives lost over the weekend. Meanwhile, Newtown schools will reopen on Tuesday, although Sandy Hook Elementary, where the shooting took place, will be moved to another building. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

One of those who had already heeded the call was Rick Haylon, who invited his fellow parishioners to come and watch the interfaith vigil Sunday night at his house, saying they could squeeze in as many as needed, even hundreds.

“It's comforting,” he said of being at his church in the aftermath of the shooting. “These are my friends. This is my family. These are the people I need to be with.”

Haylon, a father of two teenagers and a son in his 20s, reminisced about an essay that his daughter, who was coming home from college as his older son had done to be with the family, wrote long ago about him being able to fix everything.

“I've been troubled the past few days that I can't fix this,” he said outside of the church, but thought that hosting the vigil view was one thing he could do to help.

More tears were shed outside the church, with Jean Kreizinger, a great-grandmother and retired geneticist, welling up when a reporter asked her how she was doing.

“Difficult, very. It just doesn't seem possible,” she said as her voice shook and then she let out a sigh. “This lovely town has really just been devastated by this.”

David Friedman / NBC News

Jean Kreizinger, 81, after services at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday.

Kreizinger, who has lived in the community since 1970, and been a member of Trinity since 1972, said that during these sad, hard days, the church “certainly provides a huge amount of stability.”

Over at the Newtown Youth Academy, lacrosse players of many ages, including high schoolers and college students, plus some others from out of town (and rival teams), came together to play as well as to honor those who passed, including the mother of one of their fellow athletes, Anne Marie Murphy.

Woody Thompson, a long-time volunteer parent with the lacrosse program, said they held a moment of silence for Murphy and her son, Tom, who had played with them: “A lot of guys are out here for him,” Thompson said.

He said a main emphasis was speaking with the college students just coming home to the tragedy.

It was a way to have “a familiar group of guys and kind of start to process this a little bit,” he said, through a sport that they identify with. “These kids — they can't go to bars around here ... so this is a great way to get together."

"We're having fun and I want everybody to have a good time but I also don't want to miss this chance of having everybody together without thinking about it,” Thompson said.

Kathy Canavan, 54, watched her son Kevin, 21, play in the lacrosse scrimmage. When asked what she thought about the special day of play, Canavan, who was joined by daughter Katy, 19, said: “People want to do something.”

“They don't know what to do though, so everyone's doing their one little thing that is going to sort of represent how they feel about the town," she said.

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