“I found out about the shooting from a parishioner ten minutes before Sunday’s Liturgy,” said Priest Daniel Hickman, Rector of Saint Stephen Church [OCA] in suburban Longwood. “I called Father John Hamatie, the President of our local clergy group, on Sunday afternoon to suggest the idea of a pan-Orthodox prayer service at his parish—Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church—which is closest to where the shootings occurred. We celebrated the Canon of Supplication to the Theotokos, after which Father John offered words of encouragement and we shared a meal together.”
Despite the short notice, over 40 people attended the service.
“Everyone joined their voices in asking God to heal the wounded, show mercy on the departed, and bring peace to the city of Orlando,” Father Daniel added. “The Orthodox community of Central Florida offers its prayers for those who were killed and wounded in this hateful act of terror and for their families…. The tragic event has shown us the darkness of anger and hate, but in the Eucharist ‘we have seen the true Light,’ and we pray for that Light to shine on those who are suffering and on the city of Orlando.”
“Our community is shaken by the tragedy we have experienced,” added lay leader Ann van den Berg, a member of Saint Stephen’s. “The suffering of the victims, both dead and wounded, of their families, of the first responders, and of the community has provided us an opportunity to co-suffer with them, to help them bear their suffering as Christ has called us to do. Our prayer service is one part of this, one that can open our hearts to greater love and other opportunities to demonstrate that love.”
In addition to Fathers Daniel and John, other clergy who served included Priest Demetri Tsigas, Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, Melbourne, and Priest Joshua Schooping, Saint Sophia Church [ROCOR], Kissimmee. Also in attendance was Priest Jacob Mathew, Saint Paul Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Longwood.
Metropolitan Tikhon’s Archpastoral Letter and Public Statement on the attack are available on-line.