Thousands of people gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC today (26 October) for Matthew Shepard’s ceremony.
His ashes were interred at their chosen resting place in a beautiful ceremony.
Matthew’s parents chose the location of their son’s final resting place because they said he love the Episcopal Church. His mother, Judy, said he felt welcomed by the church in their home state of Wyoming.
‘It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world,’ she added.
On 12 October 1998, the 21-year-old accepted a car ride from a couple of young men. The men beat him, robbed him, and tied him to a fence in the freezing cold in Laramie. He died six days later.
Mariann Budde, the diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, gave the opening remarks: ‘We welcome you to this house of prayer as we celebrate the life, and grieve the death, of Matthew Shepard. A paricular welcome to Matthew’s family.
’20 years is not long enough. You could never dim the memory in 20 years of one so loved, nor can 20 years heal the grief of such a loss.’
Bishop Gene Robinson, who became the first openly gay bischop in the Episcopal Church in the early 2000s, delivered the homily to the 2,000 attendees.
He ended his homily to a standing ovation, saying: ‘There are three things I’d say to Matt: “Gently rest in this place. You are safe now. And Matt, welcome home.” Amen.’
He’s now in a safe home
Matthew’s father, Dennis, also spoke at the ceremony. He started by thanking everyone for attending the service.
‘It is so important we now have a home for Matt,’ he said. ‘A home that others can visit. A home that is safe from haters.’
He also reiterated his son’s love for the church, simply saying: ‘He loved the fact that it was a safe place for anyone who wanted to enter.
‘Matt was blind, just like this beautiful house of worship. He did not see skin color, he did not see religion, he did not see sexual orientation. All he saw was a chance to have another friend.’
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC also performed.
One singer, Marcus Brown, 42, told the Washington Post about the importance of Matthew’s story: ‘It’s our responsibility as members of a certain age to pass those stories down, to explain that the progress that we have made has come through a lot of trials and tribulations.’