Friends and colleagues gathered in Halifax Sunday for a public memorial service for Raymond Taavel, a well-known gay rights activist who died last month after being beaten outside a bar.

About 200 mourners walked from Grand Parade to St. Matthew's United Church, where the memorial service was held.

During the memorial, Rev. Jennifer Paty hailed Taavel's friends for speaking out in the wake of his death with compassion and forgiveness.

"The healing power of this community ... and the togetherness of this community has always kept me in awe," she told the packed church.

NDP MP Megan Leslie told mourners that her first instinct after learning of her friend's death was to blame someone.

But she said her thoughts turned to other, more important concerns and questions, such as what factors led to Taavel's death.

"Was it a failure of us, as a community, as a society?"

"This story has many victims. But we have done Raymond proud. We have risen to the challenge. ...We have been informed and we have been compassionate."

In a public letter written in April, Taavel's family thanked Halifax residents for their support and compassion in the days following his death.

"We are overwhelmed by the people of Halifax and Nova Scotia and your explosion of compassion and love for our son and brother," read the letter. "We are so grateful for what you have done and are doing in Raymond's memory. We do not mourn alone when you mourn with us. You will never know what this meant for us."

In the letter, Taavel's family also praised the compassion shown to the accused.

"Despite the psychiatric release system failing Raymond, you accented his life's work and not the tragedy. Even the accused has received compassion, and Raymond would have liked that," it read. "It is easy to be angry, but your kind words wipe away the anger."

Taavel died April 17 after being beaten outside Menz Bar on Gottingen Street.

Andre Denny, a patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, was charged with second-degree murder. On April 17, Denny was overdue from his one hour leave from the psychiatric facility.

Denny was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and will next appear in court on June 18.

Organizers of the memorial event ask that contributions in Taavel's memory be made to The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, The Youth Project or Mobile Outreach Street Health.

A private service for Taavel was previously held in Ont., where his family lives.

With files from The Canadian Press