During his first Sunday in church since his early release from prison, John White sang, prayed, cried, and later privately talked of the need for a "healing process" for his family and the Cicciaro family.
During the service, the Rev. Beresford Adams spoke of a "God of many chances" and asked the crowd to "welcome home John White," eliciting applause from about 50 parishioners, many of whom had rushed to embrace White the moment he entered Faith Baptist Church in Coram Sunday morning.
White opened the service by saying: "Morning, church, it's good to be back." He then read from Psalm 27, which begins: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; what shall I fear?"
White sniffed back tears during the reading. Later, he said privately that now is a time of healing for both families.
"We should all learn tolerance. Otherwise we can't live together," White said in an interview after the church service.
White attended the 10:15 a.m. service at Faith Baptist, where he has been a deacon for several years. Gov. David A. Paterson on Dec. 23 ordered White freed from upstate Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, where he was serving a 2- to 4-year sentence for the 2006 shooting death of Daniel Cicciaro Jr., 17.
The Rev. Brian Joseph, who led Sunday's worship service along with Adams, prayed from the altar: "We want to thank you for the favor you have granted our brother John White and his family." Adams also asked parishioners to "pray for the Cicciaro family" and said the church community is "praying fervently for healing on all sides, for the Cicciaros and the Whites."
White, who stood behind Adams at the altar for part of the service, also sang with the church's men's chorus. He later said he agreed with Adams' statements about the need for "both families" to heal, but refused to address the Cicciaro family's comments about his early release head-on.
On Christmas, Daniel Cicciaro Sr. told reporters in the driveway of the Port Jefferson development where he lives that "the day was going to come anyway" and "whether it was now or a year from now, it is what is." The comments were a contrast to Cicciaro's public disapproval of White's 2- to 4-year sentence in 2008, which Cicciaro said at that time was too lenient.
After church Sunday, White said: "I don't have any comments about their statements or their thoughts, but there needs to be a healing process. It has to start now."
White, of Miller Place, also said his plans include getting involved in the church community again and restarting his construction career. But he said he has not yet mapped out a plan.
"I'm just getting home and I've got some time," he said.
White said he never stopped attending church services, and remained an active member of prison worship services while in jail for 168 days at McGregor.
Adams said after church that it was good to have White back, but the feeling remains bittersweet.
"For both families, it was tragic," he said.
White described his Christmas at home as "quiet" and added "that's all I wanted." He said he was heartened to return to his custom-built Miller Place home and see the rabbits that scurry around the property. White said he has always made it a point not to put pesticides on his lawn because of the animals.
"I don't move nature," he said. "That's part of my doctrine."