Dover prayer vigil honors victims of Orlando massacre

Bob and Eva King pray for the victims of the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Bob and Eva King pray for the victims of the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER – Scattered raindrops falling from a gray sky fit the mood perfectly as several dozen community members gathered on The Green Wednesday for a prayer vigil for the 50 people who died and others that were injured in last weekend’s massacre in Orlando, Fla.

“God is crying,” said Ellen Witko, pastor of the People’s Church of Dover. “In a time of grief we need to mourn together and we need to show up for each other to show that we’ll work through this together and, hopefully, change

Darleen Aragon reads five of the 50 victims names from the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

Darleen Aragon reads five of the 50 victims’ names from the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

things.”

Pastor Witko and Jon Rania, the Lay Ministry Associate at Dover’s Christ Episcopal Church, invited members throughout the community to gather and offer prayers to the victims – and the shooter – and their families that were touched by the tragedy.

So just after the clock hit noon on Wednesday, bells from the Liberty Bell on The Green, the Old State House and at all of the churches downtown, struck a somber note 50 times. The chilling sound of the bells reverberated throughout downtown and seemed to hang in the thick atmosphere.

Around 50 people that were gathered on The Green stood somberly in the drizzle, reflecting on the senseless loss of life.

“We joined with other churches downtown in tolling our bells 50 times, one for each slain, including the man who was hurting enough to do this senseless act,” said Reverend Douglas Griffin, of the Presbyterian Church of Dover.

Reverend Griffin added that he didn’t think twice against joining others in the non-denominational interfaith prayer vigil for the 50 people that were shot and killed by Omar Mateen at the Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando, Fla.

Prayer vigil for the victims from the nightclub shootings in Orlando held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

Prayer vigil for the victims from the nightclub shootings in Orlando held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

“It is just the shock and the horror of this senseless act of violence against LGBT and our desire to stand in solidarity with the community – the LGBT community – and all the people that desire peace,” he said.

After the bells rang out, Pastor Witko spoke of the tragedy and the need for people to come together and grieve.

Suzanne Schwarz, a member of the People’s Church of Dover, then spoke an opening prayer for the victims of the tragedy, before more prayers and tributes followed.

“It meant a lot,” Ms. Schwarz said. “This is my own community, as well, that was hardest hit so it meant a lot for me to see all the people come out and honor those that we lost.”

Frances P. Johnson, of the Wesley United Methodist Church, recited Psalm 139 from the Bible in memory of the victims, including verses 13 through 16 which reads:

“For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

Pastor of the People’s UCC Church, Ellen Witko at prayer vigil for the victims from the nightclub shootings in Orlando  held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

Pastor of the People’s UCC Church, Ellen Witko at prayer vigil for the victims from the nightclub shootings in Orlando held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

Susan Frey and Rev. Douglas Griffin pray for the victims of the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

Susan Frey and Rev. Douglas Griffin pray for the victims of the nightclub shootings in Orlando during a prayer vigil held on The Green in Dover on Wednesday.

Several members of the community then read off the names of five victims and their ages, which was easily the most poignant moment of the prayer vigil.

A moment of silence followed before Pastor Witko led those in attendance in singing “We Shall Overcome,” a protest song that became a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

The moment that made it all so real to Camden’s Crystal Meredith, an intern at Delaware State Parks who rang the Liberty Bell on the mall 50 times earlier, was when all of the names were read off one by one.

“The realization set in for me when I started hearing the bells from all different directions and then it became more concrete when we came up here and they were praying,” Ms. Meredith said. “Then, just the amount of people’s names and their ages …

“When I heard that one person was 22-years-old, that’s a life cut short. You just passed the threshold of 21 and you’re able to enjoy something like the Pulse Club. And to have that cut short is a terrible thing because they missed out on more than just that kind of experience – they missed out on a good life.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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