A standing-room-only crowd of 500-plus people packed into the sanctuary of Fort Worth’s Celebration Community Church Monday evening, June 13, for a vigil in memory of the victims killed and injured in the Sunday morning shooting at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.
After the church’s choir opened the evening with the song “Orphans of God” — There are no strangers; there are no outcasts, there are no orphans of God. So many fallen, but hallelujah, there are no orphans of God — city leaders and pastors and leaders from LGBT and mainstream churches around Fort Worth offered comfort, encouragement and hope.
Mayor Betsy Price spoke of overcoming the kind of evil that lies at the root of the Orlando massacre, and Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald pledged that his department would make every effort to keep similar attacks from happening here. The chief asked the community to always contact his department with any concerns, and he introduced a member of FWPD’s Code Blue Training program who then spoke of her nephew who was killed in the Orlando shooting.
One pastor spoke of gay bars as being sacred places of refuge for LGBT people when there were no churches or other places that offered shelter and comfort. Another recalled the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in which 32 people were killed. Even as the community grieves for the victims of Orlando, he said, we must realize how far we have come since 1973, as the world grieves with us this time.
Another speaker described his anger, but pledged to put aside anger and instead respond with love. And one woman from a mainstream church apologized that she and many mainstream churches have not stepped up sooner to treat the LGBT community with love and respect.
Ministers read the names of the Orlando dead as a candle was lit for each one. Then Fort Worth District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh lit one candle in honor of all victims of violence, Fitzgerald lit one candle in honor of the first responders, and Price lit one candle in honor of the wounded in Orlando. The service ended with the “passing of the light,” as people moved through the building, using their candles to lit candles held by those standing near them.