Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Florida and California have reached out to LGBT+ communities in the wake of yesterday's massacre at the Pulse gay club in Orlando, Florida. The shooting claimed the lives of fifty people and wounded fifty-three more.
The Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor Geoff Paterson, announced on Facebook that it would hold free funeral services for any of the victims of the shooting. The announcement said,
"If you or someone you know needs a place to hold a funeral service in conjunction with the #thePulse Shootings, please call our church office at 407.869.0680. We will host your service (for free) and stream it live on the Internet for those who might not be able to attend in person. #prayforOrlando #FLC #FLCOnline
In response to a Facebook comment asking whether it pertained only to LGBT victims of the shooting, Forest Lake responded, "We want to be clear that this offer is for any victims of the shooting, but we want to be especially clear that we include the LGBT community."
The idea originated in a conversation between Young Adult Pastor Bernie Anderson and his wife Christina, a Child Life Specialist at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando. Christina said that chaplains at Nemours were hearing that some of the victims' families were worried that they wouldn't have churches to hold services for their loved ones killed in the attack. A brief phone call to Geoff Paterson was all it took to green-light the idea.
Delwin Finch, Pastor for Forest Lake's Web Ministries, says that as of press time, there haven't been inquiries from family members, but the Facebook announcement generated hundreds of appreciative comments and thousands of likes and shares. The full list of victims is only now being released, and funeral plans might still be in the initial planning stages, Finch pointed out.
"This isn't an idle offer either, we already have all the logistics in place just waiting for a call," Finch said.
On the opposite coast, the Glendale City Adventist Church in Glendale, California will host a community vigil to honor the victims tomorrow (Tuesday, June 14). From 11:00 am to 7:30 pm, the doors of the sanctuary will be open for mourning and reflection. At 7:30 pm, the church will host a service of remembrance. A media release for the event provided the following:
The Glendale City Church, in conjunction with a growing number of Glendale congregations like Central Avenue Church and First Congregational Church of Glendale, UCC, is hosting a Community Vigil to honor the memory of and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting. The organizers of the vigil believe it is important to provide a local space for mourning since this tragedy touches many lives right here in our city. Todd Leonard, pastor at Glendale City Church also says, “It is clear that there are forces at work to perpetuate hatred against the LGBT community, against our country’s Latino population and to turn our anger at the shooter into anger against all Muslims. In addition to mourning the victims, our vigil tomorrow night is a tangible promise that we as Glendale citizens will commit to work towards peace, love and justice towards all.”
The ecumenical vigil will include music, prayer and reflections from community members along with a candle-lighting for each of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The event will take place on Tuesday, June 14 at 7:30 pm on the Glendale City Church campus located at 610 E California Ave., Glendale. The church sanctuary will also be open that day from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm for those who would like to come to grieve and remember in silence.
The Glendale City Church has long been a welcoming and inclusive church with a sizeable LGBT+ membership.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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