Second Baptist Church holds vigil in remembrance of Orlando victims


Leeks Lim/Daily Senior Staffer

Speakers from the vigil link hands in the front row of the Second Baptist Church to join in the singing of “We Shall Overcome” on Wednesday night. Over 300 people were present at the packed church in remembrance of the mass shooting that took place in Orlando three days prior.

Yvonne Kim, Reporter

Over 300 people filled Evanston’s Second Baptist Church Wednesday night with song, prayer and speech for a vigil in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The Evanston Community in Lament Gathering mourned the early Sunday morning shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 people dead and at least 53 injured. The vigil was organized by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, and Rabbi Andrea London from Beth Emet Synagogue.

“We were trying to balance a lot of different things,” London told The Daily. “We wanted to mourn and we wanted to express outrage and … to say we’re no longer going to be the silent majority.”

Representatives of various Evanston organizations and members from multiple faith communities in Evanston offered speech and prayer like the Rev. Bret Lortie, senior minister at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, and Mohammed Saiduzzaman, president of the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid (Mosque) and Community Center.

Dr. Donique McIntosh, co-director of YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s racial justice program, provided opening remarks. As a member of the LGBT community, she spoke about extending sanctuary beyond the church’s walls and recognizing that “homophobia, heterosexism and racism were loaded just like bullets” in the shooting.

“For many in the LGBTQ community, myself included, the club isn’t just a place you go out to dance and listen to music,” McIntosh said. “Pulse was a sanctuary. It was a place where we could go and bring our whole selves … It offered sanctuary for many whose sanctuary couldn’t be found in the faith community.”

After a litany and musical selection by the church’s music ministry, clergy remarks were given by Nabors, London and the Rev. Keith Fry of Immanuel Lutheran Church.

“The primary focus for me this evening is to make an effort to connect the dots between human suffering, hatred and societies that turn the other cheek,” Nabors said. “What happened in the early morning hours this past Sunday was an extension of what has happened throughout history and what continues to happen today.”

He described the Orlando shooting as an extension of other hate crimes throughout history, from racism in the 1900s to the recent shootings in San Bernardino and Sandy Hook.

“We must gather to break through centuries and millennia of demonizing one group,” Nabors said. “For to demonize one group … is to demonize humanity itself.”

The event then opened up to other speakers, prayer and a reading of the victims’ names.

London told The Daily that she saw the vigil as effective in creating an inclusive environment of different races, sexual orientations and faith backgrounds. Members of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic churches were included in the program. She also said she wanted to make clear that “it was a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, and in particular LGBTQ of color.”

Spencer Nabors, 17 year-old daughter of the Rev. Nabors, saw the event as important in cultivating solidarity between people of color.

“The black Baptist church is often some of the most conservative group of churches, so I thought it was very important to show the community that our church is very open,” Spencer told The Daily. “I think everyone was very shocked and delighted that the crowd was just so diverse and so willing to come out in such powerful numbers.”

As the vigil came to a close, the reverend encouraged those present to take and light a candle as they left the church.

“I felt hopeful,” said Evanston resident Fran Joy. “People came together and stayed together and held hands … (they) expressed love but also expressing that there needs to be an action to move forward and make something happen.”

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