Church Cancels Woman's Funeral Minutes Beforehand Over Memorial Video
Friends and family of Vanessa Collier, a 33-year-old who died in December, gathered in protest outside of New Hope Ministries in Lakewood, CO, on Tuesday afternoon. The group is expressing their outrage after her funeral on Saturday was canceled just 15 minutes before the service was supposed to begin, reportedly because there were photos of Collier kissing and proposing to her wife in the memorial video celebrating her life.
The officials, including New Hope Ministries pastor Raymond Chavez, did not approve of the images, and asked that the video be edited before the service could begin. Offended, her family refused to remove the pictures from the tribute. This forced the entire procession to move across the street to a much smaller space.
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Collier's casket, followed by dozens of flowers and more than 150 mourners, was carried over to the Newcomer Mortuary. Jose Silva, a family friend who attended high school with Collier, said they couldn't believe what had happened. "We thought it was a joke—we thought maybe Vanessa is pulling one last prank on us," he toldUSA Today.
Silva helped to organize Tuesday's "Dignity in Death" protest, which included Collier's supporters carrying signs that read, "Only 1 can judge." The group marched around the church chanting, calling for respect. "Every person that dies should have an opportunity to be buried in dignity," said Silva.
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Pastor Chavez has apologized to Collier's family, but the church is not speaking with the media about its decision. Chaplain Gary Rolando who led the service at Newcomer did speak with reporters, tellingUSA Todaythat pastors at New Hope, with which he's not affiliated, "welcome those who are gay, but ask that alternative lifestyles be censored in the church."
Collier's family says the church was aware of her sexual orientation, and that the video was dropped off for review days before the funeral.
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