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Cathedral of St. Luke, Orlando, describes pastoral response in wake of massacre

Cathedral of St. Luke, Orlando, describes pastoral response in wake of massacre

A pastoral letter to the congregation of the Cathedral of St. Luke in Orlando, Diocese of Central Florida, describes the pastoral care the Cathedral is providing to the victims of the mass shooting at The Pulse last Sunday.

Dear Cathedral Family,

Our hearts break for the victims, and their families and friends, of the horrific shooting that targeted the LGBT community in Orlando this weekend. We grieve with our city, and for our city.

Since early Sunday morning our Cathedral clergy and staff have been actively serving those affected by this violence. Before our 8am service had even begun, Deacon Nancy Oliver was on her way to Orlando Regional Medical Center and the Hampton Inn, to talk and pray with victims’ families, and represent the loving presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of the confusion and chaos that evil always brings.

Both Deacon Michael Matheny and Deacon Nancy Oliver joined Bishop Greg Brewer Monday night at the ecumenical vigil sponsored by Saint James Catholic Cathedral. Currently we pray aloud each victim’s name during daily Eucharist.

We hope by now you have seen the Cathedral’s statement of love, solidarity, and support, posted on our website and social media outlets earlier this week:

We at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida, abhor the hateful violence perpetrated against LGBT persons in our city this past Sunday morning. We stand with the families and friends of the victims, and with the LGBT and Latin communities, praying for them daily, and for the healing of our city.

We want you to know how much we care about every person affected by this terrible event, that we are weeping with them, and that we desire to be a part of the healing journey that surely awaits us all in the coming months.

Our Cathedral will serve in the upcoming days in two specific ways. A funeral for one of the victims, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, takes place at the Cathedral on Saturday morning at 11am. A vigil, “Prayers for Healing and Hope,” including a message from Bishop Brewer, begins Sunday evening at 6pm. Members of the Orlando Gay Chorus, the Cathedral Choir, and other local choirs are lending their voices and talents to this solemn time of prayer, scripture reading, and singing. Following the service, many of us will join a city-wide candlelight vigil at Lake Eola. Please make every effort to join us with your prayers and presence for these important expressions of worship and solidarity.

We also want you to know that, as a clergy team, we are here for you, care about you, and are praying for you. We love you and are available to talk and pray with you as you process this awful event. In moments like this the darkness of sin seems overwhelming. We encourage you to be honest in your conversations with God, and lift your sadness, doubts, anger, confusion, and grief to the One who knows you and loves you.

As the horror of this evil event settles in, hold on to the hope that Jesus Christ brings. Remember that it was from his own island prison on Patmos that Saint John reminded us that suffering and sorrow are not the end of the story:

“See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.”

… “See, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:3-5a

We hope you will continue to pray, and reach out to those affected by this violence, that they may know the hope of Jesus Christ.

In Christ’s love,

The Cathedral Clergy

Acting Dean Reggie Kidd

Canon Josh Bales

Canon Justin Holcomb

Deacon Michael Matheny

Deacon Nancy Oliver

Deacon Carolyn Peterson

About Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

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Andrew Petiprin

I find myself encouraged that Christians can show love and welcome to each other without crass tests of allegiance to particular issues. At last night's service at the Cathedral I ran into an old family friend - a gay man (and not an Episcopalian) who was an important mentor to me in my teenage years. He knows I do not believe the Church can permit gay marriage; but it meant the world to both of us to pause and embrace, to tell each other that we love each other, and to bear the grief of our city together in worship.

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David Curtis

Perhaps, the murders that took place at the Pulse will give many pause to rethink their positions on LGBTQ issues and to evolve. While I cannot provide any documented cases, I wonder how many white clergy and white churches, who were opposed to civil rights and integration, began to rethink their position and to move into a greater understanding of God's love after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in 1963 and 4 innocent young ladies lost their lives to cowardice and hate.

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Ric Schopke

Thank you for sharing how God and God's people are ministering here in Orlando. Please continue to pray for the greater Orlando area. As you probably know, there were a murder and suicide at a live concert venue a couple of nights before the Pulse shooting and a toddler who drowned at a resort after being grabbed by an alligator a few days ago. We are grateful for prayer.

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Chris Cooper

I am genuinely moved by the work of the diocesan and cathedral clergy following the massacre in Orlando. That being said, the diocesan policy of "we will bury you but we will not marry you" must change if there is truly to be healing and change in a diocese that has been toxic to and for LGBT people for decades. This is the moment to turn from the evil of the Howe-Clark years. I hope they cease it.

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Andrew Petiprin

Thank you, Episcopal Cafe, for highlighting the good work going on here in Orlando, led by our bishop. We need your prayers.

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