Picture of the participants of the KC Interfaith Service Held for Victims of Orlando 6/12/2016
CCCUCC Assoc. Pastor, Bethany Meier. in attendance
A Response to the Orlando Terrorist Attack at The Pulse Night Club in Orlando, FL
by Rev. Chase Peeples
Dear CCCUCC family,
We awoke Sunday morning to the news that a gunman had opened fire at a night club in Orlando, Florida killing at least 20 people. By worship time, more news had spread--that the night club was one frequented by LGBTQ people and the number dead stood at 50 with more than that wounded. Although the full horror of the attack had yet to hit us and most of us had not yet seen images of the scene of the attack, one of our own members, Jonathan Overall, stood during the prayer time to state he had grown up near the club and was worriedly watching his phone for updates from friends in Orlando to see who was alive and who, if any, of his friends were missing or dead. We left church yesterday still learning of the depth of the crime committed against LGBTQ people in Orlando.
This attack strikes at the soul of our congregation, because we have chosen to answer God's call to be Open and Affirming of LGBTQ people--people who have become essential members of our congregation. LGBTQ members of our church and those of us who are straight allies understand this violence can happen anywhere at any time, yet it is still a shock when it does occur. It is particularly jarring that the largest terrorist attack/mass shooting since September 11 was carried out against an LGBTQ night club.
It is sickening to see politicians and religious leaders offer condolences to the victims of the massacre who regularly condemn LGBTQ people and demand the passage of laws which would discriminate against LGBTQ people. Similarly, it is sickening to see politicians scapegoat all members of one religion because a deranged man declares he kills in the name of God. It is sickening to watch as our nation's leaders shrug and offer empty platitudes in response to yet another mass shooting carried out with weapons created only for killing.
Yet, we are not abandoned to our fates as a people drowning in our own disease of violence and cynicism, for God has not abandoned us!
As we grieve, as we experience anger, as we lament crying out to God on behalf of those who grieve their children, family members, friends and lovers this day, let us not be overcome by despair. As evidenced by the spontaneous vigils popping up across our country--such as the one in KC last evening that our own Bethany Meier attended with other area faith leaders (see picture above)--the number of people on the side of love is far greater than the number of people on the side of hate. Our work of love is not lonely work, but instead we are joined by people of many faiths and no faith who believe in pluralism, inclusion and equality.
Although we grieve and cry today; although we experience fear for ourselves and our loved ones today; we are promised by our loving Creator that death does not have the last word and hate shall be overcome with love. Our mission as a church remains what it has been to proclaim the good news that God loves all people and that God stands with the powerless and oppressed. We must continue our work to declare that any voice that uses the name of God to justify violence abuses the God of love who created all of us.
I invite you to stop what you are doing and pray the following prayer with me and the members of our congregation:
Our loving Creator, we cry out to you on behalf of the blood of your children shed in Orlando, Florida.
We bring to you our pain, anger and questions.
We cry out to you to offer peace to the dead, comfort to those who mourn and healing to those who remain wounded in mind and body.
Help us not to give in to despair.
Remind us that Jesus Christ demonstrated there is more power gained from loving our enemies than by responding to violence with more violence.
Help us to proclaim that you have created LGBTQ people in your image and they should be embraced rather than demonized. Enable us to demonstrate the power of Christ's welcome to LGBTQ who have been attacked in word and deed by religious people who claim to know your will but deny your commandment of love.
Help us to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters who have been slandered by the actions of a nihilistic few who claim to act in the name of a peaceful religion. Enable us to stand with them as they face the venom spewed by politicians seeking to divide us one from another.
Grant us the ability to trust in you for a better tomorrow, so that we might act in accordance with your will for a just and peaceful world.
Remind us that even in the face of terror and violence that love is stronger than hate, forgiveness is stronger than violence, hope is stronger than despair, joy is stronger than cynicism, hospitality is stronger than rejection.
We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ who wept at the death of a beloved friend, who forgave his murderers and who demonstrated that God's love is greater than death.
As proof that we do not engage in our struggle alone, I have included below statements from our national officers of the United Church of Christ and the Open and Affirming Coalition of which our church is a part, and the Center for Progressive Renewal of which our Missouri Mid-South UCC conference is working with.
Grace and Peace,
Statement by the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition
and the UCC's National Officers
Grieving in Orlando
Today the United Church of Christ and the Open and Affirming Coalition stand with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida, and with all who are grieving for the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Their grief is our grief.
We pray for the families and friends of the 50 who were killed.
We pray for the many injured and for their doctors and care-givers.
We renew our resolve as a church to work in Florida and in communities across America for the safety, dignity and freedom of our LGBTQ members and neighbors.
We renew our resolve as a church to work for sane laws that will curb the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
We now know the assailant was a U.S. citizen and a Muslim. We join with the leaders of Muslim communities in the United States who have denounced the attack in Orlando and the unreasoning hatred that motivated it.
The time has come for churches to end the spiritual violence they perpetrate against their LGBTQ members and neighbors. Preaching hate against others because of their sexual orientation or gender identity has taken a terrible toll of lives lost to suicide, and is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ. We call on every church to stand with, and not against, the LGBTQ community.
We are angry, but we will not return hate for hate. Hate will not stop the cycle of violence--not in this country, or anywhere in the world. And so we remember at this time the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
"Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
National Officers of the United Church of Christ
Leadership Team of the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition
Open and Affirming Coalition | United Church of Christ | 216-926-6262
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.openandaffirming.org
A Reflection on the Orlando Mass Shooting
by Rev. Cameron Trimble
CEO, Center for Progressive Renewal