Monday evening at 6 p.m., hundreds gathered at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia, S.C. for a candlelight vigil to honor the lives of the Orlando shooting victims.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, were killed. At least 53 others were wounded.
Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS. The attack is the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history, and the worst act of domestic terror since 9/11.
The church served as a safe space where members of the community could grieve this horrific loss.
“We respond with love, we respond with hope, we respond with our faith. We will leave this place with hope and to begin healing.” said Pastor Tim Bupp as he opened the ceremony.
The church prayed for peace and reconciliation from this mourning, and sought guidance to be ambassadors to all people as they sang the hymn, “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying.”
“If your religion requires you to hate someone, you need a new religion,” said Malissa Burnette of SC Equality, to invigorated applause from the congregation.
Ernie Archie of the Harriet Hancock House advocated for strength as he read poems.
Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Rev. Daniel Simmons who was slain at Emanuel A.M.E., spoke to the group at Reformation Lutheran, noting the universality of grief, but also the importance of the church in healing. She began the “#HateWontWin” movement, advocating for love through demonstrations of unity.
“It’s important we teach people about each other,” Simmons said. “Experience someone else’s heart ache. When you have a relationship with someone that is different, you can advocate for them.”
Chaudry Sadiq of the Muslim Community spoke with the congregation, condemning the actions of Mateen and noted that grief is universal.
As candles were lit, each of the victims’ names were read aloud, followed by the sound of the church’s bell.
The congregation then lifted candles in silence, in remembrance of each life lost.
As the ceremony closed, Bishop Herman Yoos said, “Pity means nothing, compassion means everything. Compassion becomes action.”