I got lost trying to find Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities, which had organized a prayer vigil on June 15 for victims of the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in modern history.
The gunman chose to carry out his murderous mission at a gay club in Orlando, Fla. Whether he did so because of hatred toward people with same-sex attraction or feelings about his own sexuality are still being sorted out.
When I finally arrived, 15 minutes late, people were spilling out of the church and into the parking lot of what once was a Blockbuster video-rental store in west Davenport. I’ve never seen so much diversity in such a concentrated space in Iowa: babies in strollers, young adults, some with magenta-streaked hair; parents; middle-aged adults; senior citizens; people using wheel chairs; Christians, Jews, Muslims and Unitarians. I’m sure about the different religious groups because I recognized members of each one. Someone estimated the crowd inside at about 300. Everyone sat or stood so close together that sweat glistened on faces and body fragrances hung in the air.
The overflowing crowd inspired the folks outside to conduct a vigil in tandem with the one inside the church. I wove through the crowd to stand inside the church, within sight (on tiptoes) of the speakers, including our own Kent Ferris, the director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport. He spoke on behalf of Bishop Martin Amos and the diocese. Because I was late, I missed Kent’s remarks. But he shared them with me:
“We join our thoughts and prayers for the victims of the senseless, targeted massacre; for those killed and injured, their friends and families, and for those who risked their own lives to save others,” Kent said. “And personally, as a secular Franciscan, the profound sadness I feel is best expressed by the prayer of St. Francis.” He read the prayer which is one of my favorite because it describes how each of us as individuals can be an instrument of peace.
Others spoke eloquently, too, but I wasn’t taking notes. I simply wanted to be present, to pray and to show solidarity with all of these people, children of the same God. Lights were dimmed and candles were lit. We sang “Wade in the Water,” the lyrics of which reflect on the lives endured by African American slaves and their hope in God.
After the prayer vigil, I recognized even more people I know but haven’t seen in a while. This intersection of our lives was reassuring. We all wanted to be part of something that affirms love over hate, togetherness over separateness, connection over division.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.)