ORLANDO — More than 200 people packed the one-room Joy Metropolitan Christian Church on Sunday evening, praying for unity and vowing to stay strong in the face of the shootings. It was standing room only in the church known for welcoming the lesbian, gay, bisexual community, with a pulpit draped with rainbow banners. Attendees were handed rainbow and black ribbons.
The congregation expressed their collective grief in prayer and song. The Orlando Gay Chorus joined the attendees, singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “True Colors.”
There was almost a note of defiance in the speakers’ voices as they said that this tragedy would not shake their faith or derail the fight for equality. The church’s founder, the Rev. Troy Perry joined via teleconference, telling the congregation that he had wept all day.
“We will continue the struggle,” he said, his voice breaking.
Prayers for the victims, their families and even the attacker were spoken and applauded. One clergy member read a prayer from the prophet Muhammad, calling for peace.
One victim of the shooting joined the vigil and walked with difficulty to his seat, supported by his friends. He got a standing ovation. The victim said he hid in the bathroom for three hours, and at one point had to play dead.
“Every time I heard a shot, I prayed it wasn’t taking a friend of mine,” he told the crowd.