Gathering in Response to Orlando

On Monday, June 13, 2016, I hosted a gathering at my church in response to the mass shooting in a gay bar in Orlando, FL. The order of service and my comments folllow.

13391604_1189965757703748_893419545035532880_oIn 2012 I gathered with my church to mourn the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary. Last August, I gathered with my church to lament the slaughter of the Mother Emanuel Nine and Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice and so many other African Americans.

Today, we gather again as a church and as a city and a county in rage and shock at the slaughter of 49 predominantly Latina and Latino members of the queer community.

The Young, black, brown, and queer: all targets of profound violence and cruel death.

In my religious tradition, we talk about how God cares most for “the least of these,” and how we are to literally care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. But our nation, or at least some of our neighbors, seek out the least for death, not protection.

In 2012, I greeted my congregation with the following:

Welcome to this space of prayer. May you find it a place of comfort this night, and safety. May you find hope in the space between us. May we grown more whole as our time together unfolds.

How tepid that now sounds. How insufficient for the gore that has followed. And yet true. This is a space of prayer, this is a place for comfort and hope. But we dare not skip to those without confronting our grief and anger, or we will never find wholeness in ourselves or among each other.

Please join me in the invocation printed in your program.

INVOCATION              based on Psalm 88

Leader:            O my hope which is hope, when, at night, we cry out in your presence,
People:           let our prayer come before you; incline your ear to our cry.

Leader:            Some, too many, in our nation would condemn the bisexuals and lesbians
and gay men, the transpeople and the genderqueer, their friends and their
lovers at the Pulse, as among those who go down to the Pit, as if they have
no help,
People:           we feel like the forsaken among the dead, like the slain who will lie in
the grave.

Leader:            Bigotry has caused our fellow citizens to shun us; ignorance and hatred
has made us a thing of horror to them.
People:           We feel shut in so that we cannot escape; our eyes grows dim
through sorrow.

Leader:            My neighbor, why do you cast me off?
People:           Your wrath has swept over me; your dread assaults destroy me.

Leader:            All day and all night we have called on grace and peace, on holy presence.
People:           Do not hide your face from us. Be here in our faces now.

13443025_1189967221036935_8270207263272431355_oTHEIR NAMES (as of this evening)
For the long years, long, long years, before we could find sanctuary in sanctuaries, lesbian concerts and gay clubs were our church. And they still are. Here are the names of those slain in a house of acceptance and joy.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Cory James Connell, 21
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Kimberly Morris, 37
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

MUSIC             “Colossus,” arranged and performed by Ben Schrag


Now is a time to give voice to our hopes, to our plans for change. Just raise your hand and I will bring the microphone to you. My only request is that, because this is a house of God, we refrain from slandering any faith tradition, especially Islam. What is on your heart?

SONG              “Meditation on Breathing”
led by members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out love

LIGHTING OF OUR CA13391527_1189966961036961_3892553443849223539_oNDLES
In the tradition of this church, we keep this candle lit almost year round. It is a reminder that love can never be killed by colonialist empires or any other force of death and diminishment. Let us pass the power of love among us here.

MUSIC             “Beatitudes,” arranged and performed by Ben Schrag

CLOSING WORDS                               based on Psalm 17

Leader:            Hear a just cause, people of America, people of Iowa, people of Story
County; attend to our cry; give ear to our prayers.
People:           We call upon you, for we will not be silenced; incline your ear to us,
hear our words.

Leader:            Watch, o faithful and brave, with those who wake, or weep tonight, and give
angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
People:           Let us tend to our sick ones, rest our weary ones, bless our dying
ones, soothe our suffering ones, pity our afflicted ones, and shield
our joyous ones

Leader:            Let us guard each other as the apple of our eyes; protect each other in the
shadow of our wings. And all for love’s sake.
People:           Amen and ashe’ and amen.

Go in peace. A peace that refutes violence.

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