People of faith gathered Thursday evening at Sunshine Cathedral to remember the victims of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that left 49, mostly LGBT Latino men dead.
It what was called a “liturgical response to the mass shooting in Orlando,” pastors and parishioners offered prayers for remembrance and healing. Names of the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre were read, bells were sounded and candles lit.
“There is a lot of emotional turmoil in the minds and hearts of our people,” said Deacon Ed Huckemeyer, who participated in the hour long service which featured music from soloists and prayer readings from religious leaders.
Sunshine Cathedral, located in southwest Fort Lauderdale, offers a sanctuary for people to practice any faith. Rev. Durrell Watkins, Sunshine Senior Minister, explained his cathedral is welcoming of all.
During the service Watkins posed a difficult question to those in the pews.
“How do we pray for a murderer?,” Watkins asked. “How God, are we to pray for someone who hurt so many?”
Watkins, a gay man, acknowledged the need to seek a higher power.
“We simply feel the impulse to pray,” said Watkins, dressed in a white robe and speaking from the chancel where the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida often performs.
“Somehow from this tortured mess, healing can occur. Let a miracle emerge because of this,” he said.
Following the reading of the victim’s names, soloist Tara Sperry performed composer Stephen Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone.”
After the service, Sperry told SFGN she was “overwhelmed” with emotions.
“My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones,” said Sperry, the cathedral’s soprano section leader.
Ceremonies like the one Sunshine Cathedral offered Thursday are “extremely important,” said Sperry, a lesbian.
“This is a safe space where people can feel accepted and there is absolutely no judgment,” Sperry said.
When approached after the ceremony by reporters about his offering of prayers for the gunman, Watkins said, “Jesus did it. We are instructed to pray for our enemies.”
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