Since Sunday I feel like I have just been going through the motions of my daily life most of the time. When my emotions aren’t numbed, they explode with feelings of pain, anger, sorrow, and uncertainty. I have shed many tears for lives lost, hope shattered, for sanctuary violated as a result of the mass killing at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I am grieved that hate crimes against the LGBTQI community are politicized. I am angered that weapons designed to cause maximum death and destruction are easily obtained. I am saddened by the radicalization of Christians who spew hate speech, condone murder, and believe this tragedy is not enough – that all gay people, that I, deserve to be killed because of who we love. And I am heartbroken by the silence of other Christians who because they don’t want us in their pews on Sunday are unable to condemn our murder.
This morning I am trying to reflect on what has helped me get through these past few days. It was the hugs of church ladies that first ministered to me. This should not surprise me. In Luke 24:1, it was the women who were the first to see Resurrection. The women always got there first. Biblical first responders. And they were the first to come to me and give me hugs. Hugs of comfort and sorrow. The Pulse shooting scared them, saddened them, and enraged them. But they also recognized that it impacts me slightly differently. That my grief is slightly more personal than theirs.
You see that’s what hate crimes do, they strike fear into a whole populations. I wasn’t at Pulse on Sunday morning, but I can feel the anger of the shooter and the pain of the wounded who lost their loved ones. I feel it because all gay people know how it feels to be targeted because we are gay. My sanctuary was violated too. It could have been me. These feelings within the LGBTQI community are real and valid. We know this. And so did the church ladies who hugged me and brought tears to my eyes.
Then came a prayer vigil at a friend’s UCC congregation. In a show of compassion and unity, UCC denominational leaders and congregations gathered in prayer at the same time as prayers across our country lifting up the Orlando community. My friend asked me as a member of the LGBTQ community to help her lead a service she crafted out of love and solidarity. This is why I got up early and drove an hour to participate. I could have prayed at home. But coming together to pray together is a powerful way to hold space for each other.
We took time that day to read aloud the names of lives lost. To hear their names and see their beautiful faces. And we prayed for forgiveness for our role in creating a society where mass shootings happen every day. On that day, I offered prayers for my community, the Latin community, and the Muslim community – acknowledging the intersectionality of marginalized communities in this country.
I ended that day by making Pride posters with my youth group. As we discussed the horror of the murder of 49, mostly queer people of color, we planned how we would send messages of hope, love, and solidarity during our Pride parade this weekend. And this gives me the most hope. That young progressive Christians across our country are embodying the love of God, the radical acceptance of Jesus in authentic and compassionate ways, heeding the words of James 2:14, that faith without deeds is dead.
Love will win and our youth are leading the way. It is a privilege to minister and be ministered to by them.