In Orlando, a Unitarian church quickly
responds to a need—-
Three miles from Pulse nightclub, UU congregation hosts grief counselors, blood drive, and gun reform groups. JOSHUA EATON | 6/14/2016 See: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/orlando-uu-response
When the Rev. Kathryn Schmitz woke up early Sunday morning to check the news, she couldn’t believe what she was reading. Schmitz is minister of First Unitarian Church of Orlando, Florida— just three miles from Pulse, a gay nightclub where 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened re early Sunday morning, killing 49 people and wounding 53.
“It had a sense of being impossible, like these things happen somewhere far away,” Schmitz told UU World. “It doesn’t happen in the hospitality capital of the world.”
Schmitz quickly swung into action. She contacted Rachel Christensen, her intern minister—who was leading that morning’s worship service—to discuss how to best address the tragedy during the service, and she sent out Facebook messages asking people to come.
“Come to church today,” Schmitz recalls writing. “We need to be together.”
For the congregation, Schmitz says, the attack felt personal. Many members knew people who were at Pulse during the shooting, though none who were killed. The congregation also has a longstanding relationship with Orlando’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Minister emerita the Rev. Dr. Marni Harmony is lesbian, and the church has been active in supporting marriage equality and hosting LGBT support groups. After the Supreme Court decision last summer that legalized same-sex marriage across the country, it celebrated by marrying fourteen same-sex couples free of charge
In a stroke of serendipity, the church had already scheduled a blood drive for that morning. The bloodmobile was quickly overwhelmed by community members wanting to donate, Schmitz said, and the church had to direct people to other donation centers.
Several members of the drag group the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attended Sunday’s service, according to Schmitz, after a congregant who’s in the group invited them. About halfway through the service, Schmitz got a call from a local LGBT resource center, The Center, asking if the church had space to host some of its more than 600 volunteer grief counselors.Schmitz is quick to say that she usually doesn’t answer her cell phone during services, even when she isn’t leading them. But she knew that she wanted her church to be available and responsive to others in this time of crisis.
Now, the church is hosting grief counselors from The Center in its education building. It’s also opened its fellowship hall and library to community organizers from LGBT advocacy and gun reform groups who need a local space to work. On Monday, Schmitz said, the church hosted the Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the historically black church where Dylann Roof shot and killed nine worshipers last summer, who was in town working with the gun reform group the Brady Campaign.
Members of First Unitarian Church made up about half of the volunteers who helped set up for the vigil for shooting victims in downtown Orlando Monday evening, and Schmitz led the candle lighting at the vigil, which 7,500 people attended.
On Sunday afternoon, Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales said he was “horried and distraught (http://www.uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/orlando-mass-shooting-uua-president- oers-prayers-victims-community) ” by news of the mass shooting. He expressed sympathy for all victims of the attack, and added, “Unfortunately, this is the kind of violence that is predictable when hatred and fear are aroused by demagogues and when rearms are easily available.”
The motive for the brutal assault is still under investigation. On Sunday, authorities announced that Mateen called 911 during the massacre to make a pledge of loyalty to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that the FBI had investigated him twice for links to terrorism. That picture grew more complicated on Monday, as reports emerged (http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2016/06/14/possible- motives-emerge-orlando-shooting/wKtNh3kFunR9S5vXjHj8IM/story.html) that Mateen may have frequented Pulse himself and may have used a gay dating app.
Meanwhile, 27 victims remain hospitalized, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/15/us/orlando-shooting.html) . Doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center said on Monday that they expect the death toll from Sunday’s shooting to rise (http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2016/06/14/85878818/) as six of the victims remain in critical condition.
As news continues to pour in and the investigation unfolds, the Orlando community is trying to make sense of the tragedy and take steps toward healing. As that happens, First Unitarian church is committed to offering a safe, open space for people to come together, Schmitz said. It’s a need she saw in her church on Sunday morning, watching people embrace as they absorbed the news.
“People were just distraught,” Schmitz said, “just clinging to something.”
First Unitarian Church of Orlando is asking Unitarian Universalists to make their donations to Equality Florida’s Pulse Victims Fund (https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund) and The Center’s Pulse Tragedy Community Fund (https://www.gofundme.com/29bubytq) . For more information on how you can help, see the church’s Orlando United website (http://www.orlandouu.org/orlando-united/) .
(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution
Joshua Eaton (https://www.uuworld.org/authors/1931) Joshua Eaton (http://www.joshuaeaton.net/) is an independent journalist who covers security, human rights, and religion. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, and other publications.
Letter to 1u Community 2016 06 19 Letter is a summary statement from Rev. Schmitz
The above link is to a letter that Rev. Kathy Schmitz sent to members of her church, the First Unitarian Church of Orlando on Friday, June 17, 2016 to explain the events of the last week as it relates to our members.
The Unitarian church in Orlando is close to the Pulse neighborhood. The minister was alerted Sunday morning. Rev. Kathy Schmitz and members have been involved all week.
You may want to check here for information:
First Unitarian Church of Orlando website and facebook:
The following are some ways Florida Unitarian Universalist communities , UUA associations, and organization friends are involved in recognizing the tragedy this week as reported to UU Justice Florida, a justice network of UU congregations. Actions appropriate to the membership and communities are being considered. Many of our congregations are involved in interfaith events.
This will be edited and changed as information is shared from the Florida UU communities. Any errors or omissions will be corrected and added.
Shared by LJ of First Unitarian Church of Orlando
Thursday, June 16, 9:00-9:30 am, Rev. Kathy was a guest on a special live edition of Intersection. The special live broadcast on our local NPR station, 90.7 WMFE, will go out to NPR stations across Florida. All shows are recorded and available.
WMFE public radio in Orlando: http://www.wmfe.org/programs: Rev. Kathy Schmitz, minister of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando was on two programs this week: Friends Talking Faith (The Three Wise Guys) and Intersection.
Shared by Rev. Kathy Schmitz to 1U members:
There are abundant opportunities to attend vigils this week. I trust you are finding the ones you need to attend. I thought I would share this one because it is in our neighborhood and a chance to connect. I have accepted the invitation to join in prayer with other religious leaders. Peace,Rev. Kathy
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Thien Nguyen
Date: Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 12:59 AM
Subject: Candle light Vigil w/ Prayer at Mills/50 for June 12th Victims
Good Morning Reverend Kathy and Rachel,
I am reaching out to you as the Vice President of the Vietnamese Association of Central Florida. We are all sadden by the tragic event that happened this past Sunday at Pulse Night Club.
We are holding a candle light vigil with prayers event on Friday, 6/17/16 at 7:00PM at the Mills/50 location to honor the victims and families of this tragedy. We would like to invite you and your church to come join us in this event. We will have local Orlando Vietnamese religious leaders from Buddhist Temples, Churches, and more to join us for a special prayer and remembrance ceremony.
Reverend, it would be an honor for us if you could join the other religious leaders in the prayer. Everyone is welcome in this event. We are reaching out to as many individual and communities as we possibly can, because through this tough time, we need to unite as one.
Event information: Location: 1216 E Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 (in the lawn of the shopping plaza where there is a Yellow Flag with three Red stripes across from CVS)Times: 7:00pm- 8:30pm Event weblink to share: https://www.facebook.com/events/1756635044580756
Copied from the UUA Southern Region e-mail sent to members on June 16, 2016-Link to entire Southern Region update available at end of this posting.
OUR HEARTS ARE WITH ORLANDO
Standing With Faith in Love
Rev. Kenn HurtoThe terrible assault and murders at the Pulse club in Orlando on June 12th reveal the worst of human nature. We Unitarian Universalists share the shock and dismay, the anger and the grief of so many. Personally, my faith in human decency and the transforming power of love is shaken, yet I will remain steadfast in it. I know love will prevail over such hatred and evil.
I am proud of our fellow Unitarian Universalists at the First Unitarian Church and the University Unitarian Universalist Society in Orlando who have brought love to bear in the aftermath of last weekend. Likewise, Unitarian Universalists broadly are offering their help. They are ministers, all!
Below are some of the local groups with which our people are partnering, ways you might be helpful, and an interview with the Reverend Kathy Schmitz.
Lend a hand where you can. Speak love to power. Stand ever on the side of love.
With gratitude, Rev. Kenn Hurto
UUA Southern Regional Newsletter Special Edition June 16, 2016 soon to be posted at www.uuasouthernregion.org/
Shared June 15, 2016 by Rev. Kathy Schmitz to members and friends
We are receiving incredible support from around the world. This an example.
———- Forwarded message ———-
Rev. Kathy Schmitz, First Unitarian Church of Orlando
On behalf of UU communities in Australia and New Zealand, we stand with your congregation in support of love and also in condemnation of acts of hate and terror. We admire the ongoing work of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando, particularly in the wake of the terrible events at the Pulse nightclub that targeted the LGBTQ community. While we are half a world away geographically, we are as one in the quest for living, working and loving together as human beings regardless of race, colour, creed or sexuality. We can see that the frequently quoted ‘Rejoice in our differences but never forget our common humanity’ has been, and continues to be applied in a real practical way by your Church. You are indeed doers of the word and not hearers only
Warm regards and best wishes
Peter Abrehart – President, Australia New Zealand Unitarian Universalist Association (ANZUUA)
FROM OUR FLORIDA CONGREGATIONS
Shared by Rev. Janet Onnie of the UU Fellowship of Marion County:
On Monday evening, June 13, 2016, over 30 UU Fellowship of Marion County (UUFMC) members participated in a vigil sponsored by The Rainbow Family and Friends of The Villages. Rev. Janet Onnie was one of the three main speakers. The text of her statement is below and can also be found at http://www.uufmc.org. Photos of the attendees at the 700strong event can be found on the UUFMC Facebook page.
On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 15 UUFMCers, including five of the children, attended a vigil sponsored by Ocala Pride and TransOcala. Rev. Onnie joined with representatives from the Muslim community and the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) to offer a opening blessing for the space on the Ocala Town Square. The UUFMC Director of Religious Education, Marjorie Ginder (who is bilingual), followed with a expression of support in the Spanish language.
See Rev. Onnie’s statement below:
Copied from Social Justice Network of NE Florida facebook page
Manuel Andrade, Buckman Bridge UU member reported on Social Justice Network of NE Florida facebook on June 15, 2016
Dear friends, I received a call from Melissa Ross today. She is the host of First Coast Connect on NPR 89.9. I was invited to speak on her show tomorrow sometime after 9:00 AM. I will be on with Cindy Watson the executive director of JASMYN . We will be speaking about the impact of the recent murders in Orlando here in Jacksonville. I welcome your support.
Shared June 14, 2016 by the UU Church of Tarpon Springs minister
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, Florida, has a trauma response unit.
Church volunteers are organizing a community vigil in response to the Orlando attacks. This vigil is scheduled for Wednesday night, June 15th, at the Church on the Bayou in Tarpon Springs. This event will begin at 6:00 pm. All people are invited.
The Unitarian Universalists are helping with the blood drive that is being organized in Florida. Blood donations have been requested to help the people who were wounded in Orlando. Rev. Bob Murphy has additional information about the blood drive and about other trauma response activities. firstname.lastname@example.org
Shared by Rev. Kathryn Schmitz:
From: Rev. Kathryn Schmitz
Date: Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 11:28 AM
Subject: Re: Your congregation’s response to Orlando, your community and other congregations
I think the best thing to do is send people to the two Go Fund Me sites being overseen by Equality Florida and The Center.
Both of these are quality organizations doing incredible work to support the community at this time.
Equality Florida is
the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Center‘s Mission & Values
To promote and empower the GLBT Community and its allies through information, education, advocacy and support.
We look to transform our community by inspiring and connecting people and organizations, promoting acceptance and inclusion, empowering them to achieve their potential
Alternatively, people could be encouraged to reach out to and support their local LGBT resources, which are undoubtedly understanding at this time. They could say they are doing in honor of Orlando.
Sometimes, when we are concerned that marginalized communities will get ignored in a crisis, we UUs do our own fund raising and organizing, In this case, I believe attention is where it needs to be and there is no need to duplicate efforts at this time.
Thank you so much for your care and concern. Rev. Kathy
Shared on June 14, 2016 from JC, a member of First Unitarian Church of Orlando
Sunday was difficult for everyone in the Orlando area. As a member of First Unitarian of Orlando, we were able to be with other members of the congregation on Sunday to cry and start to heal. Everyone in Orlando is shaken but so full of compassion for the victims and for each other. There happened to be a previously scheduled blood drive at church but by the time my husband and I arrived it was already full and they were turning people away. The lines to give blood have been enormous throughout the greater Orlando area. One man at Monday’s vigil mentioned he waited in line 8 hours to give blood.
Monday afternoon an email went out to the church members requesting volunteers for the evening vigil at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The vigil was amazing. There was love, tears and fellowship at the vigil. People were grieving but there was no fear, only feelings of strength and determination to thrive and grow in love. A poignant moment was when the Pulse staff arrived on stage to resounding applause and support. Rev. Kathy Schmitz of First Unitarian was chosen and did a wonderful job when she gave the prayer at the lighting of the candles. No one will forget the church bells tolling slowly for each of the victims.
I noticed some members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and asked for a photo with them. They looked shaken and sad as were so many people there. I knew about the Sisters from a talk given last year at First U by one of their members. From their website: The Sisters devote ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. I’ve attached that and other photos.
My take-away from the past few days:
- There is more goodness and love than hate
- There is no justification for assault rifles in the USA.
- I will recommit to making a positive difference
- I am thankful for the UU congregation
Shared by Manatee UU Fellowship on June 14, 2016
Subject: News Release
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2016 16:31:44 +0000
Faith, Violence and the LBGTQ Community
An Open Conversation in a Safe Place Offered at Noon on Sunday
After all the candles have been lit and all the prayers have been said, there’s still a need to talk with others and listen to the deeper questions. That’s why the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 322 15th Street W, will sponsor an open conversation in a safe place to discuss Faith, Violence and the LBGTQ Community.
The Rev. Dee Graham, consulting minister, and Valerie Fisher, professional counselor and director of PRISM youth group, will moderate the participatory discussion following the 10:30am Sunday service.
“After the shock of the moment wanes, people need somewhere to express all the emotions that flood in. This violence makes a particular challenge for those who are having their first experiences with LBGTQ people, perhaps even just learning about members of their own family,” said Rev. Dee Graham in a press release. “We want to provide the support and understanding for these conversations to begin.”
Shared June 13, 2016 by Joyce and David of UU Jacksonville
Last Sunday evening in Jacksonville there was a citywide vigil in Memorial Park sponsored by the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality to show support and love for victims of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. There was also a call to renew and redouble efforts to secure passage of an expanded Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its protected classes.
UU Congregation of Jacksonville (UUCJ) is a JCE Coalition partner and I am on its Steering Committee. UUCJ Minister, Philip Baber was invited to speak at Sunday’s vigil and I have shared his remarks on the UU Justice Florida FaceBook page.
Shared June 13, 2016 by KM, UU Venice member
UUs in Venice participated in the vigil held at the Suncoast Cathedral in Venice and at Five Points Park in Sarasota. This was the notice that our congregation sent out on Monday morning:
SunCoast Cathedral MCC, 3276 East Venice Ave., Venice, FL will be holding a Candlelight Prayer Vigil tonight (Monday, June 13) at 7:30pm to remember and pray for the victims of the Orlando shooting and their families. We invite you to join us in solidarity with Orlando. Sharon Van Butsel for Rev. Gina Durbin
Also tonight at 8 PM in downtown Sarasota at Five Points Park, there will be a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims of the PULSE nightclub in Orlando. The vigil is being organized by the Harvey Milk Festival. Check their Facebook page to confirm.
Shared June 14, 2016 by Ileen C of UU Fellowship of Centre County
The UU Fellowship of Centre County in State College PA is holding a vigil at 6 pm tonight Standing on the Side of Love for Orlando. The interim minister is Rev. Gabi Parks.
Shared on June 15, 2016 from JL at Vero Beach UU
Dear Members and Friends of the UUFVB Community,
All of us are heart-sick over the senseless deaths and injuries that occurred Saturday night at the gay dance club in Orlando, when a hateful individual took more than 50 lives and wounded many more. This is a time for all Americans to once again come together, give voice to their sorrow and grief, and work to ensure that such violence is rebuked.
To this end, two events have been quickly planned here in Vere Beach for this Wednesday, June 15.
First at 6:30 pm an Interfaith Prayer Service will be held at the Community Church of Vero Beach. Clergy from many local congregations will participate, and the local Islamic community has agreed to participate with a speaker and reader. Please attend if your schedule permits. (Unfortunately, I, along with several other local clergy will be out of town due to previous commitments.)
Then at 8pm the same Wednesday night (June 15), there will be a Candlelight Vigil in Riverside Park, sponsored by Compassion Vero and others. As soon as the plans for the Candlelight Vigil are finalized, we will post the information on the UUFVB Facebook page.
In the meantime, please hold all the many persons affected by this senseless violence in your thoughts and prayers.
Rev. Scott Alexander
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach
1590 27th Avenue Vero Beach, FL 32960
About the Interfaith Service at Vero Beach:Participants included, St. Helens Catholic Church, Temple Bet h El, Islamic Center of Treasure Coast, Kashi Ashram, Our Savior Lutheran, St. Augustine of Canterbury, Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, Community Church, First Presbyterian, Indian River Islamic Center . This will be an hour of singing , praying, sharing and caring. Accolades to the courageous faith communities who are stepping out into uncharted territory to care for one another while seeking to find a common thread instead of joining in a banter of hatred. .
Sebastian -near Vero Beach
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday Where: Riverview Park, 600 U.S. 1, Sebastian
About: Honor those lost in Orlando at candlelight vigil and moment of respect and closure.
Sebastian’s Sikh community attended #orlandoshooting vigil. All 49 victims of #orlandoshooting read aloud at Riverview Park vigil.
About 150 in Riverview Park in #sebastian for #orlandoshooting vigil
— Amid sobs and hugs there were prayers and even some laughter as about 200 people came to Sebastian’s Riverview Park to remember and honor the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend.“It’s not about embracing a movement,” said Pastor Mike Lyle of Crossroads Fellowship, “a religion or about reacting to anything.” Instead, the vigil for the victims and survivors of the terror attack at Pulse, a gay nightclub, was meant as a way for the community to “respond the way God would want us to respond,” he said.
Lyle encouraged those who gathered to honor those affected by the attack and to pray for the impacted families who are now grieving, and for those who were injured and are healing.“Pray for wisdom of God for the leaders of this nation,” Pastor Lyle said.
Shared June 14, 2016 by the minister of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville
– June 12 – a lit candle accompanied an extended prayer during the service with responsive element where congregation repeated back words similar to the prayer of St. Francis – “may I be an instrument of peace” etc.
– June 12 – Email from minister to congregation including extended meditation from Rev. Keith Kron
– June 12 – Minister Rev. Dr. Maureen Killoran and two lay leaders were interviewed for public radio. This played Sunday evening and Monday morning
– June 12 – several posts on our Facebook page, including the UUA’s graphic. Minister also shared the gofundme on her personal facebook page.
– June 13 – Minister and at least a dozen congregants attended the city-wide vigil.
– June 14 – Minister sent blog to congregation calling us to hold ourselves accountable to our values – support the Muslim community, look at what is needed to be truly welcoming to LGBTQ people at this time.
– June 14 – Minister conducted several pastoral counseling sessions, some by email, some in her office.
Rev. Dr. Maureen Killoran, AIM, PTS, Developmental Minister,Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, Florida
Links to all original Organization/Association communications: