By Parish Deacon Steven Beumer
On June 11th, one day before the anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, St John’s in Winter Park remembered the 49 killed at Pulse and all the victims of gun fire in a solemn worship service. The service planned around the annual “Rachel’s Day” commemoration begun by the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as an opportunity to remember children whose lives were taken early. That commemoration began in the Southside of Chicago in the late 90’s by mothers outraged by the loss of lives and the need to create a faith response.
Prior to the service a special adult Sunday School was held with Dr. Marc Levy, one of the attending surgeons at Orlando Health the night of June 12th , 2016. He recounted much of the trauma that night as wave after wave of victims came into the Emergency Room. Dr. Levy shared how the impact of that night had on his attitude toward gun violence and the need for common sense legislative measures to help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.
The worship service included music themed for loving one another. Dr. Levy shared some additional thoughts on that fateful evening during the reading of the Bible verses. During the course of the service a bell was tolled 49 times to remember those slain at Pulse.
Pastor Tom Lyberg gave a moving sermon about loving one another and the importance now more than ever. He pointed out that the love must be unconditional and include those in the LGBTQ community that have been shut out of churches. He cited John 13; 34-35 as the commandment to love your neighbors, no exception.
Pastor Tom tied together the many subjects raised by the Pulse killing including the issue of inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community and violence in our community. Many in the congregation were moved by the issues raised in his sermon.
Several choir members closed the sermon time with a wonderful rendition of “We Are The World” to close out the morning.
At the close of worship, the congregation was invited to place 49 three feet high white crosses with the names of the Pulse victims on them in the grass area along US 17-92 in front of the church.