By Lawrence Rogers
On Friday, October 21 the doors of Otey Memorial Parish opened wide to welcome those come to remember the 49 killed in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12 of this year. The service began with a welcome and prayer from the rector of the parish Rev. Rob Lamborn, followed by scripture readings, a reflection from Assistant Chaplain of St. Andrews-Sewanee School (SAS) Rev. Molly Short, a “Litany after the Orlando Massacre,” and a reading of the names of those killed.
As the mourners filed up, one by one, to read the names of the dead, one saw the diverse range of ages and groups represented: students from Saint Andrews’ Sewanee and the college, in addition to seminarians and older members of the community, had all come to express solidarity with the LGBT community.
After the service, participants—covered in gay pride flags, multi-colored ribbons, and stickers that read “ALLY” superimposed on a gay pride flag—paraded down University Avenue to a celebration of diversity at Angel Park in downtown Sewanee. There, celebrants enjoyed refreshments provided by the University and the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, rompope provided by the Blue Chair, and the musical stylings of DJ Lady BAMF, a local disc-jockey and community activist. The participants taped pictures of the victims to pavestones in Angel Park and wrote their names and ages in chalk next to their photographs. Many also chose to write a note next to the name or offer up a prayer.
Since 1976, when the General Convention ruled that sexuality does not preclude full participation in the Christian faith, the Episcopal Church has been at the forefront of promoting tolerance and acceptance within the faith community. However, the pan-denominational declaration of acceptance is the exception and not the rule. The service helped churchgoers remember not only the victims of the massacre but also all of the work left to do in including people of all backgrounds into the church.