The bell of Red Deer’s Gaetz Memorial United Church will ring out 49 times at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12.
The bell will toll once for each of the 49 people killed in Florida’s Pulse gay nightclub on the same date in 2016.
Gaetz United is taking part in a global movement involving churches of all denominations, as well as temples, synagogues and mosques. These places of worship are answering a plea made by the mothers of the mass-shooting victims to show solidarity by tolling bells around the world.
Red Deer church officials decided to join the Orlando-based movement — which also involves acts of love and kindness in the 49 days leading up to June 12 — because their local church became fully affirming last fall.
Members voted in favour of welcoming everyone into their fold: “People of all ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, racial identities…”
“We believe God loves all — and all means all,” said Minister Amy Mueller.
“For too long, certain groups of people have felt that ‘all’ doesn’t apply to them, that their lives are less valuable… but we wanted to make a statement that we are a safe place for all members, including (those who are) LBGTQ.”
Fellow Minister Leila Mueller feels that ringing the bell will express support for “mutuality and equal rights.”
The Pulse nightclub killer, who was shot by police, was thought to have mental health problems and political and/or homophobic reasons for carrying out the terror attack.
Last year, on the first anniversary of the shooting, mothers of the victims tried to find 49 churches willing to toll their bells 49 times. “As parents, we don’t want our children to be forgotten,” said Mayra Alvear, who lost her daughter, Amanda Alvear, 25. She also wanted to endorse spreading love, not hate, as an important message for humankind.
In response, 323 churches in nine countries agreed to ring their bells on June 12, 2017.
More church bells are expected to toll on Tuesday.