Church community gathers to honor woman who died in alcove


Kristina Karisch/Daily Senior Staffer

People walk into First United Methodist Church. Dozens gathered outside on Sunday to honor the life of Tanuel Major, who was found dead in an alcove outside the church on Nov. 19.

Kristina Karisch, City Editor

Despite rain and chilly temperatures, dozens gathered outside First United Methodist Church in Evanston Sunday to honor the life of Tanuel Major — who was found dead in an alcove outside the church on Nov. 19.

Major, who had been homeless at the time of her death, was 49 years old. Evanston Police Department officers concluded the cause of death was most likely blunt force trauma to the head, and Evanston Police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said during the memorial Sunday there is now a “focus” to the investigation.

“I understand that when it happens at your congregation, it takes on a whole other meaning,” Glew said. “We will continue to work on this case and we will continue to be committed to supporting you all through this.”

Members of the congregation, residents and others with a connection to Major gathered to honor her life and raise awareness of her situation. Pastor Grace Imathiu said members of the congregation gathered because harm was done “in a place of do no harm.”

“We are here because Tanuel Major was homeless,” Imathiu said. “We are here because homelessness is an affront to human dignity. We are here because homelessness is an affront to God. … We are here because Tanuel’s story has been woven into Evanston’s story. We are here because stories wake us up and give us clarity.”

Imathiu, who led and organized the memorial, said the service was meant to help raise awareness of Major’s situation and provide the congregation with a way to “adopt” itself into her family and reach out.

She said the church will open its space to her family if they want to hold a more structured service.

“For us, this was a theological matter,” Imathiu said. “What does this say about God and what does this say about us who are disciples of Jesus? We’re taking it from a very different perspective. This is challenging us to … open our doors even wider, and to be even more connected and involved with the community of people that are either homeless or face violence.”

Bob Carroll, an Evanston resident who volunteers at Soup at Six, a Tuesday soup kitchen in the city, said he knew Major from his volunteering.

“I just wanted to make sure that she’s not forgotten,” Carroll said. “It’s just kind of a shame that someone could be laying in front of a church … and be unnoticed.”

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