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At First UMC Orlando, doves send a message of love and hope

At First UMC Orlando, doves send a message of love and hope

Missions and Outreach Social Justice

It started with a mouse click.

Rev. Dr. Vance Rains, the pastor at First United Methodist of Orlando, landed on the website for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In late 2020, organizers created an art exhibit featuring thousands of origami doves suspended from the cathedral’s 100-foot-high vaulted ceiling.

“I started to imagine,” Rains said.

But what happened next, he probably couldn’t have imagined.

Oh, the church embraced the idea all right. Volunteers from all parts of the church and even some from the community created about a thousand paper doves and, with some difficulty, managed to suspend them with wires from the sanctuary’s ceiling. It’s a striking image.

“I thought it was bold and creative, which is very Vance Raines. He sent some pictures to those of us who were going to be involved so we could get an idea of what it would look like,” volunteer Lynn Pool said.

“It’s really cool when you walk into the sanctuary. It will kind of take your breath away. Many hands came together. It became a vision for our Pentecost theme.”

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, symbolizing purity, peace, and healing. The doves made a fitting visual as Rev. Rains guided his church through Pentecost.

The doves stayed up.

“We’ve extended Pentecost into a summer-long season,” Rev. Rains said.

But what happened a week after Pentecost Sunday had an impact neither Rains nor his congregation could have foreseen when the project began.

Sunday, June 12, was the sixth anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. A gunman filled with hate entered the popular gay club and murdered 49 people. The tragedy ripped at the fabric of Orlando’s soul, and the echoes of that nightmare continue today.

First Orlando has hosted an annual remembrance service for families and community members affected by the slaughter. It’s called the service of 49 bells. One by one, the name of each victim is read aloud, followed by the tolling of the church’s giant steeple bell.

The service is usually held outside, but this year that somber and emotional commemoration moved inside the church’s doors.

And as visitors entered, the doves were waiting with their message of love.

“That’s when it transcended, I think,” Lynn Pool said. “The sanctuary was filled with many folks still grieving and maybe hadn’t been to church for a while.

“For me, that moment was something special. You could say those doves represented the Holy Spirit, represented God’s love for all people.” 

In a season where violence and discord dominate the headlines, the doves remind us that we are created to live in peace and harmony. Even with pain that never goes away, the doves offer the hope that only God can provide. 

“To the people in the sanctuary, the doves symbolized the presence of those people we lost. Their spirits were there, hovering over the sanctuary. I really felt it was meaningful. They could feel the love,” volunteer Suzanne McGovern said.

“The families come in through the portico, and that’s the first thing they see. I feel that Vance and the people involved in this were led by the Holy Spirit.”

The doves are scheduled to come down sometime in August, and Rev. Rains said he doesn’t plan to repeat the experience next year.

“I’m sure he’ll come up with something,” Lynn Pool said.

It will be tough to top this one, however.

“This artistic expression of the Holy Spirit among us is definitely something I’ll always remember,” she said.

And it started with a mouse click.

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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