On a warm spring morning just over a year ago, we were about to begin our 9:00 worship service when a terrible story began to unfold in news feeds and on Facebook. Only a few hours before, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He was shot and killed by Orlando Police Department officers after a three-hour standoff. Because Pulse was hosting a “Latin Night” on that evening, most of the victims were Latinos.

By that night we were learning that the Pulse murders were both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

While we tried to process the horror of the event from four states and 1,100 miles away, MCC clergy in and near Florida began to make their way to Orlando. Rev. Terri Steed Pierce, however, was already there. Rev. Terri is the pastor at Joy MCC in Orlando, and the Pulse nightclub is within walking distance from the church.

Over the following days and months, Rev. Terri became not only Joy’s pastor, but also Orlando’s pastor. She became a voice of blessing and comfort for Pulse victims and their families and a traumatized community. She became the voice of hope and healing for LGBTQ people throughout the city and state. She became an advocate for ensuring that laws and policies changed to prevent the horror from being repeated. She became the voice of the prophet reminding us all that “Hate tried, but love wins.”

This Sunday at both our 9:00 and 11:00 services, Rev. Terri will be our guest preacher. I encourage you to worship with us and also to invite your friends and family who might draw hope, healing, or strength from Rev. Terri’s message.

I also encourage any of you who can to join us for our early service at 9:00. We will make room for everyone, but you can help us out by coming early.

Always in Hope,