Brooklyn Heights

Clergy lead poignant prayer vigil for victims of Orlando mass shooting

June 21, 2016 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Brooklyn Heights Association led Monday’s prayer vigil for the Orlando victims. In foreground, right are Rabbi Seth Wax and the Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons. Eagle photos by Francesca N. Tate

About 70 members of the faith communities in Brooklyn Heights attended an Interfaith Prayer Vigil on Monday that promoted an end to gun violence in response to the June 12 Orlando massacre. The Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association sponsored and led the vigil, which took place by the flagpole at the Montague Street entrance to the promenade.

The purpose of the gathering was to express sorrow for the lives lost in the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Florida, and to also express solidarity for the LGBTQ, Latino and Muslim communities — all of which have been recent targets of hate.

Representing about nine of the neighborhood’s congregations, clergy offered poems and reflections. The Rev. Julie Hoplamazian of Grace Church presided, with remarks from Rabbi Seth Wax of Congregation Mount Sinai, Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, Pastor Michael Subracko of Resurrection-Brooklyn, Rev. Joel Warden of the Brooklyn Oratory at St. Boniface and Assumption Church, Rev. John Denaro of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church and the Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons of First Unitarian Church. The Rev. Jane Huber, interim assistant minister at Plymouth Church, read aloud the names of each of the victims of the shooting.

The clergy explained that because of the vigil’s timing just prior to the Ramadan close of daily fast, it was not feasible for the local Muslim community to join this particular vigil. Members of the Dawood Mosque have actively taken part in past vigils, particularly Sept. 11 commemorations. It was announced that the Dawood Mosque would host neighborhood congregations at an Iftar later this week.

Rabbi Lippe read the poem “Love Wins: A Pride Prayer,” by Alden Solovy (© 2016 tobendlight.com). One of the stanzas reads, “When love wins at long last/ ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’/ Will be as natural as breathing.”

Rev. Warden, in his reflections, said that people of diverse traditions “stand in solidarity” with those who were the victims of the targeted violence and hatred. “So we will take from this act of prayer tonight the resolve to turn our hearts in compassion towards others, even when our institutions and traditions make it difficult to be agile in showing compassion to communities that do not fit neatly within the boundaries our faith communities can impose.”

Warden called on each person to seek reconciliation and recognize in others — even those who are considered enemies — the “spark of the divine, the dignity of humanity.

“For some of us, this stepping from prayer into action will carry with it the responsibility and drive to create political change to make this small corner of the world we inhabit more safe from weaponry and instruments of destruction,” he continued.

During the same hour of the vigil, the U.S. Senate was voting on four measures to control gun violence. Needing a 3/5 vote, none of the measures passed, according to the U.S. Senate’s roll call web page.

Levy-Lyons urged the vigil participants to take action against gun violence and distributed leaflets with resource information on organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety (everytown.org) and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The latter organization is planning a march for Sunday, June 26.