Milford church holds vigil following mass shooting in Orlando

More than 50 people gathered at Mary Taylor Church in downtown Milford Monday evening to offer prayers for the families and victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.

Eileen Doyle, chair of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Mary Taylor Church, said she hoped the gathering would show solidarity with people in Orlando and around the world, and bring comfort to the people in Milford left numb by the killings.

The New York Times called the shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Fla., Sunday the worst mass shooting in American history, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded.

Doyle said during Monday’s vigil in Milford, “We have all been impacted by the horrific massacre of 49 people this past Sunday, many of whom were members of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/questioning and intersex community in Orlando, Fla.”

Reactions range, she said, from horror, to helplessness, to difficulty comprehending the magnitude of the event.

“That’s why it’s important to come together to not only show our compassion and sympathy for the victims and their families, but also to give support to one another,” Doyle said.

The vigil included prayers and singing of "Draw the Circle Wide," which encourages people to widen their circle of love so that no one needs to stand alone. They also sang "Peace is Flowing Like a River," which states that peace, love, faith, hope, and prayer flows through people and can set people free.

The church rang its bell 50 times in memory of the 49 victims and the perpetrator “because God mourns when his sheep go astray,” Doyle said, adding that she wants to see gun laws changed so that private citizens cannot purchase and carry automatic weapons.

The Rev. Brian Bodt of Mary Taylor Church agreed, saying that he does not understand why civilians need to be able to buy military-grade assault weapons. Mental health screenings are also important, he said after the vigil.

During the service, the Rev. Bodt began with Psalm 13: "How long, O Lord? Will you forget us forever? How long will you hide your face from us?”

He prayed for all those who died and their loved ones, those who were wounded, those inside of Pulse who risked their lives to save others, and the first responders and medical personnel who saved lives.

The Rev. Hal Vink, pastoral assistant at Mary Taylor Church, offered prayers for the wounded, the often forgotten.

“They are feeling grief and are traumatized by the terror of their ordeal, and will need to be cared for and prayed for for a long time to come,” Vink said.