CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A service "for love and grace" in the memory of the 49 victims of shooting in Orlando was held at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Conway at 7 p.m. Thursday.
St. Annes Episcopal Church on CCU's campus was packed with people, along members of the LGBT community, to hold a church service dedicated to those who were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando five days ago. Several members of the church spoke, frustrated that memorial services and vigils have become too common in recent years.
"We're killing each other again....Why?" asked Rev. Barry Stopfel, an ordained minister, and openly gay man.
"We want to encourage gay and lesbian people, to say that you can know God's grace. You can know the grace of Jesus of Nazareth, and here in this place tonight, you are welcome. You're safe. You can be who you are."
Stopfel says he, too has endured hate, having to fight to be accepted in the church as a gay man. He says that's why when the news broke, it hit him very hard.
"When is this culture of violence going to be healed in our country? So with a sadness for gay and lesbian people, with a sadness about my country, sadness that some Christian pastors and Christian churches were claiming that they deserved it," Stopfel said.
However, Stopfel says the message at his church will always be love.
"This is what we suffer in order to claim again," Stopfel said. "To make a commitment again, for us to bring justice and peace on the earth. As gay and lesbian people, as straight people, as transgender people, we all have this meaning for our lives, and that is to create a better world."