AUBURN — The First Universalist Church on Pleasant Street held an outdoor candlelight vigil Monday evening to mourn and celebrate the 49 lives lost Sunday morning in a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Besides being a vigil of remembrance, it was a vigil to celebrate diversity. The shooting was a vicious act of violence toward the LGBT community, especially persons of color within that minority.

The Rev. Dr. Jodi Hayashida, the minister at the UU Church, saw the need to stand together as a community to honor those lives.

“There’s a deep grief and equally deep love here,” Hayashida said. “It’s affirmative of the sacredness of the lives and love of those who died.”

Tammy Jackson of Lewiston was there to show support for her three gay children and the entire community.

“My son lives down in Florida with his husband,” Jackson said. “He knew two of the boys that were shot; he knew the boy in the bathroom texting his mom. It’s not even devastating — you can’t find a word for it.”

She added, “People need to be more loving of human beings — less judgment, more love.”

Michael Gahagan of Auburn came out to support the LGBT community, and to help show strength.

“We’re not gonna hide away,” he said.

“It’s just the level of solidarity — it’s called a community for a reason,” Michael Peterson of Auburn said. “It’s more than being LGBT; it’s being human. We need to continue to heal and create a better world for all of us.”

“It’s so nice to see all the religious groups come together” in the face of tragedy, said Suze Blood, who lives in Auburn and in Lakeland, Fla., during the off season.

In addition to Hayashida, leaders from three other local churches came out in support and in grieving.

The Rev. Steve Carnahan of High Street Congregational Church, the Rev. Annie Baker-Streevy of Calvary United Methodist Church and Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Temple Shalom Synagogue Center helped organize the vigil.

“May we find the strength tonight to turn away from violence,” Hayashida said, “to trust that love is stronger than pain, and fear, and even death. I see all of us standing in solidarity — coming together in pain — yes, but in hope.”


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