The University Seventh-day Adventist Church held a vigil for prayer and healing Tuesday following the mass-shooting on MSU's campus the night of Monday, Feb. 13. The church provided a space for community members to come together in grief.
The University Seventh-day Adventist Church, or UCHURCH, is located half a mile from Berkey Hall, one of the sites of Monday's shooting.
Senior Pastor Jermaine Gayle, who also serves as the East Lansing Police Department Chaplain, said the event was meant to help community members find peace together. UCHURCH also provided professional counseling services in one-on-one and group settings.
“When we find ourselves hurting, the best thing to do is to come together and try to heal together,” Gayle said. “Normally, things like these … tend to divide a community and push us in the opposite direction … So we wanted to provide a space for students to come to be able to have a conversation with someone else, have conversations with professionals who are trained in counseling, and also to engage, not just emotionally and mentally, but also spiritually with the local church.”
During the vigil, UCHURCH Pastor Israel Ramos shared a Bible verse as a reminder of his belief that God is always present, even while walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
“God never promises to take away difficulties or tragedy, but he promises to be with us through the tragedy,” Ramos said.
In the coming weeks and months, the UCHURCH will be open to everyone, Gayle said. Regardless of their religious beliefs. Gayle said that counseling services will continue to be offered to all, and each person can decide whether or not their healing journey involves religion.
“Our church is always open for anyone who needs help,” Gayle said. “If there are students who need someone to talk to, a professional, we are here in the city of East Lansing. We're not going anywhere … We hope to offer beyond just the vigil. We hope to offer this church as a space for students to heal, and also ourselves to be able to help them through that process.”
Gayle said no one needs to be ashamed of how they feel following the tragedy. He said everything students are feeling under these circumstances is normal, and that he is there to help students process their emotions and experiences.
“While we process (our feelings), we don't want to push ourselves into isolation,” Gayle said. “We want to seek opportunities to come together so that we can help each other as we go through this … Most of what anyone who needs help is feeling right now, others are feeling the same, and that's why it's important that we come together and try to unpack some of those feelings and try to help each other.”