Dozens of people gathered at a Palm Beach Gardens church Sunday evening to raise their voices in song and prayer for those wounded and killed in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
The roughly 75 people at the LGBT Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches came from a variety of faith backgrounds but had a common emphasis on love and the value of human life as they remembered the 50 people killed and 53 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning.
Rev. Lea Brown said she postponed her plans to travel to the Joy MCC congregation in Orlando because she realized there really needed to be a service here. It began with the singing of “Be Not Afraid.”
Rabbi Mark Winer, of Boca Raton, described every person as “created in the image of God” and “unique, utterly unique as God is unique.”
“When we are the victims of prejudice and bigotry, that uniqueness of each one of us as an individual is snatched away,” he said. “The love of God is attacked, and every fiber of our humanity is challenged.”
It’s easy to respond to bigotry and prejudice with bigotry and prejudice, he said, adding that anti-Islamic sentiment feeds and reinforces the Islamic terrorists of the world.
Meredith Ockman from the Palm Beach County National Organization for Women said the Stonewall Uprising, in which patrons protested New York City tactical police raiding the gay bar and sparked the modern LGBT movement, came to mind when she prepared to speak.
She loves the way the community comes together whenever hatred is directed its way, she said.
“There’s nothing about this community that can stop us from holding each others’ hands and giving each other hugs when we need it and making sure we prevail no matter what,” Ockman said.
Brown said her church isn’t going anywhere, and the same goes for its sister churches in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. She brought out a LGBT pride month proclamation Palm Beach County Commissioners presented earlier this week.
People stood, held hands and lifted them skyward as Brown’s wife, Sarah-Helen Land, led them in singing “Somewhere (There’s a Place for Us).”
After those in attendance took communion together, prayed for one another and lit candles at the front of the sanctuary, the vigil ended with “Amazing Grace.”