A Community Comes Together

In explaining Live Oak to new folks, I sometimes talk about how we consider part of our mission to be a community center to the larger “parish” we’re in. This isn’t just about the rentals and use of space for non-profits. We seek to enrich our connections with others in our area whose values are the same – LGBTQIA+ affirming, antiracist, pro-voting rights, etc.

Last Sunday, this took the form of leading a memorial vigil for Akira Ross, who was murdered at the Circle K right by the church. Many of us attended the Cedar Park city council meeting where Akira’s family and many in the LGBTQIA+ (and allies) community asked for justice to be served, and for a public vigil to take place. I let the family and Kelley Holiday (board member of Cedar Park Pride) know that if the city did not sponsor a vigil, we would be happy to.

They took us up on the offer. It was an honor to provide that, and an incredibly moving experience. You can see the press coverage here:

Hill Country News

Fox 7


Members of Akira’s family spoke, memorializing her by sharing their stories of who she was. And leaders from the wider community spoke: Mayor Jim Penniman-Morin of Cedar Park, Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, Chas Moore, Austin Justice Coalition, and Kelley Holiday from Cedar Park Pride.

It was a time of communal grief, and a time of coming together to call for justice, and to work together to make our little corner of the world safer for all people to be their authentic selves.

We will come together again on July 15, hopefully for a more joyful event. The Cedar Park/Leander Queer Empower Pride Conference and Festival will be held at Live Oak that Saturday from noon-7 pm. ATTENDANCE IS FREE, BUT YOU MUST REGISTER TO GET INSIDE for security reasons. (Volunteers, you need to register, too.)

The sanctuary was packed by the end of the vigil. Afterward, many people came up to me, to thank Live Oak not only for hosting the vigil, but for being who we are. Over and over, I heard gratitude for Live Oak’s role as an LGBTQIA+ safe space, and for being a religious community that is unambiguously, unapologetically pro-LGBTQIA+.

This is what it means to be a true “community center.”

***Special Thank Yous to Linda McCullough, Katherine Enyart, Samantha Foss, Wayne Gregory, Lyndy and Bill Dower, Joel Bercu, and Nancy Mason who answered the call to come early and help with the hosting duties at the Vigil!