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'The entire community is hurting'

Below is an article from the June 15, 2016, edition of the Grand Haven Tribune about the ministry of our church.

More than a thousand miles separate Grand Haven from Florida, but those attending a vigil service for the victims of last weekend’s night club shooting in Orlando showed the impact hits close to home.


St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and the LGBTQ Youth Faith Initiative hosted a prayer vigil for the 49 people killed by a gunman early Sunday.


“St. John’s and the Initiative decided to do a prayer vigil and open it up to the whole community, because the entire community is hurting right now,” said Jessica Robinson, an intern for the church and leader of the Initiative.


The event was promoted on social media in not only the Grand Haven area, but Muskegon, Holland and Grand Rapids, Robinson said. Reaction to the event was positive, she added.


Robinson said she hoped there could be positive outcomes as a result of the service.


“I think there’s two things we need to be focusing on — one is healing,” she said. “But perhaps more importantly, we need to be focusing on change. The only way that we’re going to create change is if we come together as a community, and part of what brings us together as a community is our pain and our sorrow, and our grief.”


Part of that healing process on Wednesday night included the reading of the names of all 49 people who were shot to death in Orlando. Attendees took turns lighting candles for each victim as their names were read.


Grand Haven resident Sam Nelson was one of the nearly 50 people who attended the event.


“I just thought this was a great opportunity to find community after such an awful tragedy,” he said. “The actual vigil part was very moving.”


Nelson noted that it’s always tough to wake up in the morning and learn of another tragedy.


“To think people were targeted for their identity is horrifying,” he said.


Spring Lake resident Ana West said she was moved by Wednesday night’s service.


“The event in Orlando upset me, and really upset a lot of people,” she said. “It was important to do something to remember (the victims). I thought (the church service) was very beautiful. It was very, very emotional.”



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West noted that while the shooting in Orlando was tragic, she hoped that there could be something positive that emerged.


“If there is a good thing that comes from it, it’s a sense of community and mourning,” she said. “People will know they’re not alone.”

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