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Religious organizations open doors after Monday's shooting, lockdown

UNC's Wesley Campus Ministry is pictured on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Religious organizations welcomed UNC students to their locations after Monday's shooting and lockdown. Over the following days, religious leaders have continued to reach out to students, offering support and guidance. 

After the University issued an "all clear" message, UNC Hillel kept its building open later than usual and offered "comfort food" to students.

"Our professional team knew exactly what we needed to do, and made sure the building was secure, and that our students were safe and that our staff was taken care of," Hannah Spinrad, the executive director of Hillel North Carolina and a UNC alumna, said.

Spinrad said she is holding a Shabbat gathering this Friday after receiving several requests from students to do so.

Nikki Michaelson, the campus director for Hillel's UNC branch, said even though classes will resume on Thursday, not everything will be back to normal. Both Michaelson and Spinrad were at Chapel Hill's Hillel location with students when the lockdown went into effect.

"People are going to deal with it really differently, and we want to be here to support folks through all of it," Michaelson said.

Hillel's Chapel Hill location also offered help from mental health professionals for students wanting to discuss the shooting.

Ryan Spurrier, a campus minister and executive director at Wesley Campus Ministry, said he's been staying in touch with students to check in on how they are processing the shooting.

"The main thing our students have asked for is to have space for community, to be together to find something healing," Spurrier said.

Spurrier and other religious leaders of the Wesley Campus Ministry held a lunch for students the day after the shooting. Spurrier said he heard from most students he is in contact with that they want a safe space to talk about the events that unfolded on Monday to relieve their anxiety.

Spurrier said he wants students to feel a sense of community during this time, whether that be with Wesley Campus Ministry or another organization.

Jarrett McLaughlin, a pastor at the University Presbyterian Church on Franklin Street, said that his church opened its sanctuary after the "all clear" message. The church placed candles and hung up signs saying that the church was open.

"The church cares a lot and we're trying to provide avenues to offer care," McLaughlin said.

Justin Coleman, a senior pastor at the University United Methodist Church, also on Franklin Street, said the sanctuary at the church was open for anyone in the community after the shooting.

He said he reached out to members of his congregation and students on Monday to let them know he was available for conversation and prayer. He said the outpouring of support after the shooting from clergy members from all over the country was heartwarming.

"All the other churches around downtown and in our town, I think we all have the same hope — that we can be a place for the people to come and share what's on their heart," Coleman said.

@DTHCityState | 

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