Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vigils, with Candles, with Inclusivity

This is not a picture from the candlelight vigil in Pembroke Pines that I attended on Tuesday night:

It's a picture from Christmas Eve service, which is probably the closest I've come to a candlelight vigil.

On Monday morning, I heard about a vigil that was held in Wilton Manors (part of our county with a significant population of gay households) on Sunday--obviously, it was too late to go.  I found myself wishing I had attended.

So, when our pastor posted that a group would carpool to a candlelight vigil at the city of Pembroke Pines on Tuesday night, I said I would be coming.  And that's how I ended up at the City Hall of Pembroke Pines holding a candle.

As I headed over after spin class, I did wonder if we might be arrested.  But we were all on the same side.  We heard all of the city officials offer words of support to those who lost loved ones in Orlando.  We heard reminders of the city's support of inclusivity.  We saw a reminder of that commitment in the speakers:  Christian and likely not (the dark-skinned man in the turban was likely not Christian, but I couldn't hear him, so I'm not sure), male and female, homosexual and not.  I was likewise surrounded by a mix of people, some of us who wore our various identities proudly (clerics and stoles and rainbow sneakers and t-shirts with various proclamations) and some of us in ordinary clothes.

We all lit our candles and held them high, as the clergy spokesperson reminded us of the strength of many candles.  It looked like this:

Photo taken by Keith Spencer

On my way home, I tried to remember if I had attended a candlelight vigil like that one.  Nothing comes to mind.  I've gone to prayer vigils in churches, but that's not quite the same.  I went to a public park to see a release of cranes on one August 6 to commemorate the Hiroshima bombing.  I've gone to rallies and marches, but again, that's a very different experience.

My spouse remembers attending candlelight vigils in college, and he said, "Surely I wouldn't have attended those without you?"  I pointed out that he might have gone in the year before I arrived.

Once I went to a variety of rallies and marches.  I knew people who built shantytowns on the quads of their campuses.  My life is quieter now.

It was good to gather at city hall, to declare that hate cannot conquer us, to light our candles in solidarity.  It was sad that we still have so many opportunities that demand our candlelight vigils, but it's heartening that so many would attend a quickly organized vigil on a Tuesday night.

There are over 50 similar vigils planned around our county this week, and I'm certain there will be many across the country.  I'll light my candle, and I'll continue to hope for a day when we no longer have that need.

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