Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery spoke June 13 at a vigil on the Chapel steps for the people killed in the mass shooting in Orlando. Here are his remarks.
On behalf of all of our campus partners who are co-sponsoring this vigil, welcome to all of you. My name is Luke Powery and I’m the dean of Duke Chapel.
On behalf of Duke University Chapel and all of our partners, our deepest sympathies, thoughts, hearts, and prayers go out to all the loved ones of the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando. Our hearts are broken, our voices crack, and our eyes water as we honor the victims, many of whom were from the LGBTQ community, and their loved ones.
We gather as God’s children in our common humanity and stand in solidarity against hate and violence of any kind while we stand for love and peace. In particular, I want to say that we stand with our Duke LGBTQ communities and want to be sure that they have all the support they need.
In responding to the terrible violence as we have witnessed in Orlando, I’m here first to listen—to hear the cries and anguish and grief of our community and world. I’m also here to lament—the ongoing lack of recognition that we are more alike than different and the way in which guns have become gods. And, I’m here looking for hope so I turn to God in prayer.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far along the way; Thou who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray today. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered. We come today with tears of sorrow and anger, asking challenging questions. We ask our own question to You, God, “Why this, again?”
Why is there still strange fruit being born on the backs of the oppressed? Why is there still blood on the leaves and blood at the root and blood spilled at Orlando nightclubs? We ask why?
But our whys don’t prevent us from knowing who can help—the who is You and everyone standing here together collectively. When we ask who that question points to You and each other. I’m reminded as Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What happened in Orlando should impact all of us, if we are truly human. Lord, help us not to forget that the who points to ‘we’ as well.
And we cry out in despair and cry out for justice. We cry out for mutual understanding and respect. We cry out for your love because your love is stronger than death. Show us how to live into your love.
And as we face the rising sun of tomorrow’s new day even while it begins to set on this day, let us march on with a steady beat and enough strength till every human being is considered a child of God. Let us march on till the day when we realize that we exist in an interconnected web of mutuality. Let us march on till we overcome hatred of any kind with your unconditional love. Let us march on till we can hold hands and truly sing from our hearts, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”