WATERVILLE — Candles burned as symbols of hope Wednesday night when close to 100 people turned out for a vigil for Ayla Reynolds, the 20-month-old girl from Waterville who has been missing for five days.

Raising the light of hope is part of the process of dealing with such an event, said David Anderman, senior minister at the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, where the vigil was held.

“Many of us, in a couple of days, will be lighting candles at Christmas Eve services, and it’s a joyous occasion for us,” Anderman said. “There will be mixed feelings this year with the association to this. We hold out the symbol of hope tonight.”

The vigil was attended by many parents who brought along their small children.

Amy Joseph, 27, of Waterville, her three children in tow, said she attended to show support for the toddler and her family. Joseph said her children are aware of what’s happening.

“They know that Ayla’s been missing and we’ve been praying for her every day and they wanted to help somehow, and this is our way to help,” Joseph said. “It’s very emotional. I have a hard time just imagining it.”

The candlelight vigil, songs and moments of silence were organized by Dana Bushee Hernandez, the mother of two girls and the founder of Mainely Moms & Dads. The organization was formed in 2007 as a support and social group for parents in the Waterville and Augusta areas.

Anderman opened the service with a piano rendition of “When Peace Like a River,” as a single candle burned in front of an altar that held a photo of Ayla, pictures drawn by children, candles, toys and a teddy bear.

Danielle Bartz, chaplain at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville, lit one long candle and walked aisle by aisle, passing the light to candles held by the many in attendance.

The vigil was dedicated in part to the many law enforcement officers, firefighters and volunteers searching for the girl, who was last seen in her bed Friday night.

“For the last four days I have had the privilege of watching anywhere from 25 to 75 law enforcement people working day and night on this case,” Waterville City Manager Mike Roy told the assembly. “And I can tell you that they are working just as hard as if it were their own child. I’ve seen it in their faces.

“I just want everyone here to know how impressed I am at how dedicated they are,” he said, “and how confident I am that they’ll find Ayla and that justice will be done.”