By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
GARDEN CITY — In a ceremony punctuated with tears, nearly 200 AIDS victims were remembered at the Interdenominational AIDS Memorial Service held at St. Michael’s Church in Garden City.
The April 30 service involved churches from around the Grand Strand area. It was sponsored by the St. Michael Catholic AIDS ministry.
Sister Isabel Haughey, OSF, welcomed the participants and introduced the gospel readings, hymns and personal reflections offered by ministers and lay people. The poignant celebration was underscored throughout by the names of the deceased which were displayed on a television next to the pulpit.
Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy, pastor of St. Michael’s, said he was thrilled that the 70 people who attended were pausing “to remember their loved ones who had touched their lives…” He described the memorial service as an act of love saying that people are called to love others as God loves them. Msgr. Duffy also addressed critics of the service by pointing out that it was not about homosexuality but about the men, women and children who died from AIDS.
“This is a ‘people’ disease,” he said.
To remember those people, red ribbons were distributed at the beginning of the service and worn until its completion when the congregation was asked to place them in a basket. They were handed out again as a sign of love and reminder to pray for other people who have experienced the loss of a family member or friend.
Loss, however, was not the focus of the ministers who spoke. Rev. Wayne Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, reminded those in attendance that, in God, death is eternal life. He quoted John 3:16 which states that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish.
“It enables me to be grateful to those who have gone before,” he said. “In order to be at peace it is necessary to feel a sense of history.”
Brown also had his own inspirational definition for AIDS: “Adore God in praise, Include him in all we do, Desire his will in our lives, and Serve him as Jesus served him.”
Rev. Keith Bowling, a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach, revealed that he has lived HIV positive for 11 years. He said that experiencing the fear and then going on and living with the disease has changed his spiritual life.
“I am more alive now than ever,” he said.
In closing the service, Msgr. Duffy spoke of the limitlessness of God’s love using the analogy of the crucifix.
“When we ask Jesus, ‘how much do you love me,’ he answers, ‘this much’ and he stretches out his arms as he was on the cross,” he said.