On Tuesday, (Jan. 15) nearly 10,000 people filled the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for “A Night of Hope & Healing” concert to praise, worship and remember the souls taken on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown.
Outside of the venue, the excitement was buzzing, and it electrified anyone who drew near to it. You could hear an ambience of jolly voices all around and individuals shuffling toward the Salvation Army’s food carts, who were inviting everyone to enjoy free hot chocolate, coffee and desserts.
But all of the concert-goers – including myself – weren’t alone. Accompanied by a phenomenal lineup of inspiring Christian performers and guest speakers, it transformed into an exceptional night overflowing with love – and of course, hope and healing – amidst a time of trouble and pain for this small but strong community.
The concert, which was also being live streamed worldwide, was held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. featuring a plethora of Christian rock stars including Building 429, Laura Story, Toby Mac, Mandisa, Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns and even a surprise performance from the children’s choir at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch kicked off the night with an introductory speech, followed by well-known preacher Max Lucado, who served as the show’s host/moderator of sorts, refilling our metaphorical cups with kind, reassuring scriptures and messages along the way. Reverend Jim Solomon of the New Hope Community Church in Newtown (who also prayed at President Obama’s press conference in Newtown) also delivered a wonderful opening prayer.
Among the many messages sent throughout the night were “The Lord is my Sheppard,” and “Whom shall I fear?”
Building 429 opened the night with songs including “Where I Belong,” and “Listen to the Sound,” and took some time to share scripture with their fans. Particularly, Psalm 62:2, which read, “He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will never be shaken.”
Mandisa and Chris Tomlin also took to the stage to sing “Amazing Grace” with the children’s choir, who all donned green, custom-made shirts representing the victims, their names and ages. Pastor Louie Giglio was also among the round up of guest speakers, who gave a heartfelt, raw sermon on how the Lord uses all things for His good.
Lucado then joined Giglio on stage for what was easily the most somber and emotional moment of the night – a moment of silence as the names of all of the victims flashed around the arena before us, where in the middle in green it brightly glowed, “We Remember.”
Toby Mac performed his hit “Made To Love,” as well as two songs from his newest album released last year, “Me Without You” and “Steal My Show.”
Steven Curtis Chapman was easily the most unabashed performer of the night, whose wife gave an impromptu, tear-filled story about the loss of their daughter, Maria, who died from injuries sustained after a car accident involving Chapman’s youngest son, who served as his drummer for the night. It was definitely more than emotional and hit close to home for everyone listening, even if they couldn’t exactly relate.
And of course, Casting Crowns blew the audience away with their powerful songs including “Who Am I” and “Praise you In This Storm.” Before closing out the night, however, all of the performers returned to the stage together to sing one final song for the community, urging them to come together and unite as one.
During a time when this community is scrambling to put all of the pieces together, this amazing concert served as a reminder that every piece of the puzzle needs strength, healing, love and hope to do so.