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Religious leaders gather at E. Manatee interfaith service for victims of Orlando shooting

Roughly 100 people sat Wednesday inside a dimly lit Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church, 7225 Lockwood Ridge Road. Heads bowed, they were there for an interfaith service in solidarity with the city of Orlando after this past weekend’s tragic shooting at a gay nightclub that claimed 49 lives and injured 53.

Silence hung heavy at the beginning as the names of each victim of the Orlando shootings were said aloud by the Revs. Vickie Miller, Charles Tigard, and Donna Twardowski.

The service, one of a few held throughout Manatee County, brought together representatives from different houses of faith including the Congregational United Church of Christ, the Islamic Center of Sarasota/Bradenton, Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Trinity Methodist Church. Each took turns speaking before the crowd.

“We’re here to accept our responsibility — to be bold and courageous,” said the Rev. Dee Graham, consulting minister of the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. “We come here together one time, one symbol, of all that we are — all that we have done and will do together and that we will be, as our shared ministry, encouraging those within and beyond our walls.”

Imam Yusuf Memon of the Islamic Center of Sarasota/Bradenton did a call to prayer in Arabic before saying a short prayer in English.

“I begin with the name of God, the most merciful, the most gracious,” Memon said. “All praise due to God, the Almighty. ... Oh God, we ask you to shower your mercy to all of mankind and we ask Your mercy, especially for the victims and the families of this tragic incident. Oh God, we pray that You give us strength and courage through these challenging times, and that we meet the days ahead full of peace and prosperity.”

The event ended with a closing litany, which included:

One: “Let us remember all who have been harmed by the violence in Orlando.”

All: “We acknowledge the strength of those who survived and of those still struggling to heal.”

Janalee Heinemann, who attended with her husband ,Allen Heinemann, said it was a beautiful service.

“We’re devastated like everybody about what happened in Orlando,” the 71-year-old Siesta Key resident said as her husband stood beside her. “We really feel it’s important, with all of the things that Trump is saying, that people aren’t feeding into that. We hope we continue to bring together all the different communities of faith.”

Amaris Castillo: 941-745-7051, @AmarisCastillo

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