Episcopal churches in Colorado offer prayers, support after deadly rampage at LGBTQ+ club

By David Paulsen
Posted Nov 21, 2022

People attend a vigil after a mass shooting at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 20. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal churches in Colorado Springs are joining the community in offering prayers and holding vigils as Colorado’s second-largest city mourns the deaths of five people in a mass shooting late Nov. 19 at an LGBTQ+ nightclub.

At least 25 more people were wounded in the shooting at Club Q. A suspect, Anderson L. Aldrich, is in custody after police say nightclub patrons were able to subdue the gunman. The motive for the shooting is under investigation.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on the north side of Colorado Springs will hold a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Mountain Nov. 21. “We mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters that were killed or were injured in the most recent mass shooting in our country and in our city at Club Q,” the church said on Facebook.

The Rev. Matt Holcombe, St. Michael’s rector, told Episcopal News Service that he and the Rev. Gay Darress, a deacon, visited the scene of the attack early the next morning, “just to be a physical presence of love and to offer prayers over a place where lives were lost and changed forever.”

Holcombe also said the son of two of his parishioners was the best friend of one of the people killed in the shooting. “As a church that welcomes all, we have staff, clergy, parishioners that are all part of the LGBT community,” he said. “Our hearts break, our hearts have been broken open again by another mass shooting.”

Past mass shootings have placed the state and specifically Colorado Springs at the epicenter of the gun violence epidemic in the United States, from the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999 to a gunman’s deadly rampage at a Colorado Springs birthday party in 2021. The attack on Club Q also has evoked memories of the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people.

On Nov. 21, court records reportedly showed Aldrich faces preliminary murder and hate crimes charges, though details of those charges haven’t been released. Colorado Springs is known as a conservative stronghold in the state and in the past has been a center of anti-gay activism.

“The recent shooting at Club Q is heartbreaking,” Colorado Bishop Kym Lucas said in a written statement to ENS. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families as we hold them in our prayers. We pray also for the shooter and his family, and we pray most fervently for an end to gun violence.”

Lucas also affirmed Christians’ believe in Jesus’ way of love.

“The Episcopal Church in Colorado contends that our identity is defined not by who we hate, but by who we follow. Jesus did not teach violence or hatred; he taught us to love,” Lucas said. “The love of Christ extends to everyone, including our LGBTQIA+ siblings, and we in the Episcopal Church affirm that truth.”

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than 100 Episcopal bishops, also released a statement in response to the Club Q shooting. “We pray for those who died at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Sunday morning. We pray for their families, for their friends, for the LGBTQ+ community, and for all who mourn,” the statement says. “In the face of this unspeakable evil, broken by sorrow and fired by rage, we put our faith in Jesus, whose triumph over death calls our church to act decisively against gun violence in all its forms.”

The prayer vigil at St. Michael’s will be livestreamed by the church on Facebook and YouTube, and it will incorporate the Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting developed by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The litany mourns the victims of mass shootings spanning the past 10 years in the U.S.

Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Colorado Springs said on Facebook it is “praying with and for the LGBTQ+ community of our city,” and the congregation will offer an evening of “prayer, song and silence” at 6 p.m. Mountain Nov. 21 in response to the tragedy.

The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson, the church’s rector, said in his Nov. 20 sermon that he learned of the shooting when friends of his marked themselves as safe on social media.

“Another mass shooting in a state with a devastating history,” Williamson said. “Another mass shooting in our city. Another terrible act of violence against the LGBTQ+ community.”

On what is known as Christ the King Sunday, Williamson said Jesus isn’t a king who rules from a distant throne. “We need a Jesus who is willing to stay with us – through our suffering and through even our dying,” he said. “Christ who is with us – in our pain, in our sorrow, in our death. That is the Jesus we need today. That is the Jesus our city needs. That is the Jesus our LGBTQ+ siblings need this morning. And that is the Jesus our Gospel promises.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.