By Bonnie Adams , Managing Editor
Grafton – Over 100 people of all ages, religions and sexual orientations attended an emotional and poignant candlelight vigil held June 15 on the Grafton Common to honor those killed in the Orlando, Fla. shootings. The vigil, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton’s Social Justice Committee, featured songs and prayers that reflected the UUSGU theme of “standing on the side of love.”
Held just days after the massacre that saw 49 people killed in an Orlando gay nightclub with dozens more injured, it was important, committee member Caroline Scott said, for communities to stand together and support not only those affected by crimes against the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) population but also those affected by hate crimes in general.
“We as the Unitarian Church align on the side of love,” she added. “That’s our motto and what we stand for.”
Scott said that organizers were pleased to get support from town officials for the event. The Grafton Lions Club also generously donated the candles, she added.
As the event started, the Rev. Daniel Gregoire, who has only been with the UUSGU for two weeks, greeted the gathering, noting that he did so as a “brother, man and gay man.”
“We are broken and burned with the pain of violence and homophobia,” he said.
As he gazed upon the candles that lit up the common, he noted, “We are not going to let the light of love and truth go out. The candle is a symbol of light and love that refuses to go out.”
Noting that the news of another tragic mass shooting “left us not knowing what to do to make things better,” the Rev. Lisa Green of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sutton spoke, said, “We must pray for bigger hearts to hold us and the world.”
In a prayer she added,” [God], we know from you that love is stronger than death. And unity is stronger than division. Give us hope in the midst of despair. And give us love in the midst of fear.”
Dr. Amjed Bahnassi of the Islamic Center of Greater Worcester also addressed the gathering.
“We ask the Almighty for help for the innocent victims and their families who have suffered,” he prayed. “We ask the Almighty to give mercy and hope.”
After he finished and bid the audience a “good night,” replies of “to you as well,” and “thank you for coming” rang out.
Throughout the vigil, the audience sang along as members of the UUSGU played familiar and comforting songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Overcome,” “True Colors,” and “Bridge over Troubled Waters.”
In a poignant moment, Gregoire read aloud the names of the 49 victims who had been killed in the Orlando assault.
“They are innocent victims, martyrs and heroes,” he said. “May their light live on in us.”
“We must spread love and diminish hate,” he added. “We are all one family. One human family.”
As the ceremony drew to a close, those gathered held their candles aloft as they sang the beloved song by John Lennon, “Imagine.”