Matthew Shepard, who died 20 years ago today from injuries he sustained after being attacked in an anti-gay hate crime, will be interred October 26 at Washington National Cathedral.
Shepard’s life will be celebrated and remembered at the public service, which will be followed by a private interment of his ashes in the Cathedral crypt. Tickets and RSVPs are not required to attend.
Final Resting Place
“We’ve given much thought to Matt’s final resting place, and we found the Washington National Cathedral is an ideal choice, as Matt loved the Episcopal church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming,” Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, said in a statement. “For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world. 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.”
The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, and the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church, will preside over the service.
The Cathedral, a supporter of full inclusion of LGBTQ people in church life, considers LGBTQ equality “one of the great civil rights issue of the church in the 21st century,” according to a press statement.
The Cathedral hosted its first same-sex wedding in 2010 and welcomed its first transgender preacher, the Rev. Cameron Partridge, to the Canterbury Pulpit in 2014.
Shepard, who was Episcopalian and 21 when he was murdered, was cremated after his death, but his parents never found a final resting place for his remains and have kept them in an urn.
“Their foremost concern was the safety of his final resting place. They didn’t want it to be vandalized or desecrated. They also wanted a place where they could visit his remains,” said Kevin Eckstrom, Washington National Cathedral spokesman.
‘Honored and Humbled’
Earlier this year, Judy out reached to Robinson, a long-time family friend, and asked if the Cathedral would be open to the idea of taking custody of Shepard’s remains, Eckstrom said.
Robinson relayed the request, and the Cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, immediately agreed. He worked with the Shepard family to find a suitable place in the crypt and to start planning the service.
“The Cathedral is honored and humbled to be asked to be the final resting place for Matthew, and to be able to honor his memory in this way,” Eckstrom said.
More than 200 people have been interred in the Cathedral, including President Woodrow Wilson; Bishop Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal bishop ordained in the United States; Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan; and U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey.