Cathedral hosts Orlando interfaith service with focus on consolation, hope and change

St Paul's service draws people from Fed Square solidarity gathering.

Bishop Philip Huggins joined the leaders of other churches and faiths in prayer, reflection and lighting candles at the Orlando memorial service.

June 17 2016About 600 people attended an interfaith service for the victims of the Orlando shootings in the US at St Paul’s Cathedral on 16 June, many of whom came directly from a gathering across Flinders Street in Federation Square to express solidarity with LGBTI communities here and in Florida.

“Lights of Hope in Darkness – Remembering the Victims of Orlando”, led by Melbourne Assistant Bishop Philip Huggins and the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, featured the lighting of candles from the “Orlando Candle” lit at St Paul’s Cathedral after news of the shootings on 12 June at an LGBTI nightclub, in which 49 victims and the killer died and dozens more were injured.

Imam Nur Warsame from the Marhaba Melbourne Muslim LGBTI Support Group participated at both the Fed Square and Cathedral events and was joined at St Paul’s by representatives of the Uniting Church, the Hindu Council of Victoria, the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, the Melbourne Inclusive Church and the Acting Consul General of the United States, Mr Bill Furnish – all of whom, along with Bishop Huggins and members of the congregation, lit candles drawn from the flame of the Orlando Candle.

The rainbow, US and Australian flags were part of the backdrop of the service.

Mr Alfonzo Paredes, from the US Consulate, read the names of the Orlando victims, interspersed at several points with a prayer led by the Archdeacon of Melbourne, the Venerable Dr Craig D’Alton.

The readings were from Jeremiah 31:13-17 and St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 12:9-12, while the Lay Clerks (adult members) of the Cathedral Choir led the musical offerings, including Gabriel Fauré’s  Requiem, Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod, from Enigma Variations and the hymn composed for the 125th anniversary of St Paul’s.

The Senior Minister of Collins Street Baptist Church, the Revd Dr Simon Holt, was the preacher.

He said while Jeremiah offered words of grief and consolation, St Paul’s words were of exhortation, a challenge to change our actions and to adopt a new way of living.

“Tonight we hear these two words, consolation and challenge, for we need both,” Dr Holt said.

“The challenge of every tragedy, this one no less, is that we are compelled by our tears, we are urged by the searing grief of others to live differently from this day on.

“Churches like mine must allow the tears of today to speak into the debates on sexuality and inclusion.”

Earlier, the Federation Square gathering, “Victoria’s Show of Solidarity for Orlando – Standing with LGBTI Communities”, was attended by the Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Premier Daniel Andrews and his Equality Minister Martin Foley, Greens MP Adam Bandt and State Opposition frontbencher David Davis.

The Federation Square gathering was led by ‎Victoria’s Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Ms Ro Allen, who along with Mr Davis and other community leaders attended the Cathedral service.

  • For full coverage of Anglican responses, here and overseas, to the Orlando tragedy, see July’s TMA.