Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knoxville Relief Fund and Support Blog established

Sent: 7/29/2008 1:22:16 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: [UUA-L] UUA Launches Knoxville Relief Fund as Knoxville community
gathers to mourn and remember

(1:00 PM, July 29, 2008)

The Unitarian Universalist Association, in association with the UUA
Thomas Jefferson District, has launched the Knoxville Relief Fund, to
bring ministry, spiritual care, and practical financial assistance to
those affected by the tragedy in Knoxville, Tennessee. Gifts to the fund
will assist members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist (UU)
Church and Westside Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and their loved
ones, and will show them that they are not alone during this time of
shock and grief.

Income from the Knoxville Relief Fund will go to the Thomas Jefferson
District of the UUA to be used at their discretion to assist Tennessee
Valley UU Church and Westside Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and
their members. No more than 5% of the funds raised will be used to
cover administrative costs, including fees for credit card processing,
before being directed to the Thomas Jefferson District. For more
information on the Knoxville Relief Fund, including a link for online
donations, please visit

At 7:30 P.M. on July 28, the greater Knoxville community gathered at
Second Presbyterian Church for a service of memory and healing. The
service included participants from the Westside Unitarian Universalist
Fellowship and the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship;
Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Relief
Ministry and Rev. William G. Sinkford, UUA President, also participated
in the service. A report on the worship service will be posted on this afternoon and additional coverage on will
follow on Wednesday.

Information on vigils and services of support and remembrance for the
victims of the Knoxville shootings continues to be gathered and posted
at . If you have
information to share about such an event, please email information to . Messages of support and condolence for the
members of the Knoxville congregations continue to be received at the
UUA's "Supporting Our Friends in Knoxville" blog site. If you wish to
add your message of support, please visit .

Additional information on the Unitarian Universalist response to the
Knoxville shootings will be posted on at .

Reports on the Knoxville candlelight vigil on Monday, July 28 for the victims of the Tenneessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting

Sent: 7/29/2008 11:43:05 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Knoxville Service

Dear Friends,

It was my honor to be a witness for our faith at the Candle Light Service in
Knoxville last night. From the opening words of the Minister at Second
Presbyterian Church, saying you are safe and welcome here, where there are no
denominations just people of faith together sharing this tragedy, you felt a
sense of strength rising from the ashes of hatred. The church was overflowing
with members of UU churches and many from the community of other faiths to
witness with us and help bear the pain. Rev. Sinkford asked people to raise their
hands to show what groups they represented. He had been asked by the news
if the alleged shooter would go to hell and he said to them that this man has
been living in hell for many years. Bill's words were about the strength of
our conviction to love and not hate, to be open to all and continue to work
for justice. Rev. Rosemary Bray-McNatt led the congregation through a moving
meditation of candle lighting while reading the names of all those injured
or dead from the blasts. The most moving event of all was the children
closing the worship by singing "The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow" and candles were
raised high as we all joined in on the second chorus.

We are so blessed with a crisis response team who have great skill in caring
for and guiding the members to heal the pain and move forward into the
future. Of course they continue to need our prayers and support for many months.
There will always be the scar of this event that they carry. We are called
to help them remember and move on with strength. Broken hearts never heal but
they give us renewed empathy for all suffering. We stand on the side of love.

Here are links for you to view or read:

( (Audio of Monday
Service in Knoxville)

( (Song
"Tomorrow" from Annie sung at Knoxville Service)

( (Local NBC station)

Continue to check_ uua.org_ ( for updates and a fund is
being started for the congregation.

Your in faith, Anna

UUA Trustee from Thomas Jefferson District

Sent: 7/29/2008 1:42:51 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: News for TJD Leaders

Thomas Jefferson District of the UUA
July 29, 2008

I have never been so proud of being a Unitarian Universalist as I was
yesterday in Knoxville.

It started when 30 or so people, some from TVUUC, some from Westside UU
Fellowship, some from the Red Cross, some of the local mental health agency,
some from our own UU Trauma Response Team, several local UU ministers, and Sue
Sinnamon and I from the TJ District staff, gathered together to plan the day,
or should I say, the day after. The meeting was chaotic, disjointed, and
disorganized -- much like so many people in the room felt on this Monday
morning -- yet our task was clear. What needed to be done on this day and in the
immediate days to follow to begin the healing process in the wake of Sunday's
devastating tragedy?

After only a few minutes, one subgroup broke off and began planning the
critical incident stress debriefing sessions that would be held from 5 to 7 pm
that evening, sessions that were age- and situation-appropriate: those who
witnessed the attack and those who did not, those from TVUUC, those from
Westside, children and adults in the cast of "Annie," pre-schoolers, first and
second-graders, second and third graders, and on and on. Another group created
a master list of all the decisions, all the tasks, all the work that needed
to be done this week, from getting the damaged pews out of the sanctuary and
into storage to planning the vigil that was happening that night to
imagining a re-dedication of the sacred space that is the TVUUC building. Within a
short couple of hours, amidst all the heavy hearts in the TVUUC building that
day, a plan to start the healing process was born.

My growing sense of pride resurfaced again as I sat with the Reverend
Rosemary Bray-McNatt from UU Trauma Response Ministry and TVUUC member Bill
Dockery as they mentored newly-elected TVUUC president Ted Jones and immediate
past-president, Jane Raparelli, in how to handle the relentless media demands
that were coming into the congregation. With phone consultation from several
UUA staffers including Kay Montgomery, Harlan Limpert, and especially John
Hurley and Janet Hayes, a plan to respond appropriately and comfortably to the
media was born.

By late afternoon, I watched as UUA President, Bill Sinkford, who had
arrived only moments before, and TVUUC President, Ned Jones, go to speak to the
multiple media representatives who had been camping out in the TVUUC parking
lot waiting for something they could report as the latest news. Bill and Ned
together couldn't have represented Unitarian Universalism any better than
they did standing on the front lawn, speaking over rush-hour traffic, and
talking about who we are as people who accept all who come to us, not leaving
anyone out, even someone who eventually might come back to inflict such deep pain
on all of us. I didn't believe I could ever be more proud of our faith and
the liberal religious values we hold as I was at that moment. But I soon
learned how wrong I was.

After the media event was over, I made my way up the hill to 2nd
Presbyterian Church, a congregation literally right next door, a congregation that
sheltered our children as they ran in panic from our church building Sunday
morning, a congregation that generously offered to host our debriefing sessions
and our public vigil that night. When I arrived at the church, the debriefing
sessions were underway but already people had begun to arrive for the vigil.
By the time the debriefing sessions were over, the building was already
filled to overflowing. As the skies opened up with a torrential downpour of rain,
people from TVUUC, Westside UU Fellowship, the new UU satellite
congregation in Blount County, 2nd Presbyterian, people from synagogues, from mosques,
from area Christian churches, and others from all over the Knoxville region
scrambled to get in from every open door in this large church complex.

Starting the service with an emotional rendition of Spirit of Life, the
Reverend Chris Buice, minister of TVUUC, gave the opening words and identified
the "power in this room." "The presence of so many people from so many faith
traditions being here for our church means so much to us," he said. The
Reverend Bill Sinkford then helped us all try to accept that it was not possible
to make sense of such a senseless act but that by owning our feelings of
anger, grief, hurt, helplessness and pain, we could work through this together.
Surprisingly to many of the non-UUs in the crowd, Bill's recounting of a
reporter's question about whether the man responsible for this tragedy would go
to hell brought spontaneous laughter from the large UU contingent, a welcome
break in the tension of the day. But Bill's answer to the reporter's query
returned the congregation to somberness as he said, "In my religious tradition,
this man has already been living in hell here on earth." It was Bill's
clarity about how the strong social justice tradition of this congregation will
not let it retreat in the wake of this tragedy that brought tears to my eyes.
He said that none of us can allow our pain and anger to keep us from living
our faith, from welcoming all people, from standing on the side of love. "We
will not let that happen," he said. "We will continue our commitment to
welcoming all people."

After Bill's remarks, the Reverend Rosemary Bray-McNatt led us in a silent
candlelight meditation. As the darkened room brightened with the hundreds of
lit candles, she reminded us that we are but one small light but when joined
together with others, our light will shine forth. The Reverend Mitra
Jafarzedeh, minister of Westside UU Fellowship, closed the service by saying this
was not a closing but a beginning. "Go forth in light," she said, "be daring
and audacious enough to have hope. Let nothing silence us."

And Mitra was right, we were just beginning. During the pre-service
debriefing session held with the cast of the play being performed at the Sunday
service, the members of the "Annie" cast asked for the opportunity for some
closure to the months of work they had put into this performance. As Mitra
finished her words, the cast stepped forward at front of the sanctuary and began
singing the "Annie" theme song, Tomorrow. The congregation spontaneously
joined in singing with them and after a few seconds, when the impact of this
moment had sunk in, the crowd erupted into applause, tears, shouts, cheers, and
many more tears. As the cast finished their grande finale, they took their
long-awaited bows to an adoring, grief-stricken, and healing audience.

For those of you who don't remember all of the words of Tomorrow, let me
share them with you here.

The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!
Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!
(Composer: Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin - From: Broadway Musical

I can't think of any more appropriate song to guide us all through this dark
time. "Proud of my faith" does not even begin to describe my feelings as I
stood there with hundreds of other devastated members of a large interfaith
community, cheering our UU children into a brighter future.

Yours in faith and love,

Annette Marquis
Thomas Jefferson District Executive
to UU Fellowship of Statesboro, GA

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lives lost in Tenneessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shootings memorialized with candlelight vigils

A candlelight vigil was also held at the First UU Church of Second Life last night. Click the pic to see it big:

The flaming chalice represents the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.

There seemed to be a lot of new people at the vigil last night. There were lots of questions about what exactly UUism is. There was only one griefer, that I know of. There were a couple hundred (real life) dollars collected in donations for the TVUUC.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Updates and reflections on the shooting at the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville

Sonja Lamicela, Director of Religious Education at First UU Society of Syracuse, NY, has suggested that sending paper cranes for peace would be an appropriate way to express support and healing for the staff and members at TVUUC, especially the children, 25 of whom witnessed
the shooting. Here's how to make them. (I feel I might have better luck with the video.)

The church address:
Brian Griffin, DRE
Tennessee Valley UU Church
2931 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, Tennessee 37919

Special Notice From the Thomas Jefferson District of the UUA:

Every UU has been deeply impacted by this unspeakable violation to one of our own. I encourage you to gather together in your congregations and hold your own vigils, reach out to all of your members, invite them into conversation, speak about your own sadness and your own fears, find ways to be together in this difficult time. Let the spirit of life and love hold you all through this, for it is our courage, our commitment, our love, and our acceptance of all people that guides us through even the darkest hour.

From the First UU Church of Second Life:

The Tennessee Valley church is holding a candlelight vigil tonight
Monday at 7:30pm EDT (4:30pm SLT). The First Unitarian Universalist
Church of Second Life will join in solidarity by holding a candlelight
vigil as well, at the same time, Monday night, July 28 at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST.
Please join as you are able, we will take photographs and send them to
the Knoxville church to show them our love and solidarity.

Video: Man Helped Tackle Gunman

Video: Churchgoes React to Shooting

A couple of good blog posts:

Bad American: Open Season on Killing Lib'ruls

Pam's House Blend... always steamin':
Breaking: Shooting in Tennessee -- Knoxville church had just put up gay-affirming sign

"It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement," Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV told reporters on Monday.

Authorities also discovered a letter from the state government telling Adkisson he was having his food stamps reduced or eliminated, police said.

"He did express that frustration, that the liberal movement was getting more jobs," Owen said. "And he felt like he was being kept out of the loop because of his age."

Adkisson's resume indicates he had worked in mechanical engineering, police said.

Owen said Adkisson apparently acted alone and chose the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because of recent publicity about activities there that Adkisson considered liberal.

"He indicated also in that letter that he expected to be there shooting people until the police arrived and he fully expected to be killed by the responding police," Owen said.
Puh-leez. Jobs, age, food stamps etc., and throw in a bunch of chronic illnesses: look at my other blog, The ICI Experience. You don't see me running around killing a bunch of conservatives, in spite of the fact that I'm quite sure it's all their fault.

The there's the "male-centric" world view excuse, or maybe it's just that darn testosterone's fault. I just saw "No Country for Old Men" and I can't help but compare the senseless violence. The psychopath wandering around killing people on a coin toss vs. the jobless aging man killing people in a church that is an openly Welcoming Congregation*.

I think there's some similarity in the gaze. Art imitating life is my opinion, though I'm sure some will think it's the opposite.

Judging by how long it's taking to load pages at the main Unitarian Universalist Association website, in the long run Jim Adkisson's actions in the TVUU Church might have the opposite effect to what he intended.

*Welcoming Congregation

Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Community - Welcome to Unitarian Universalism!

The Welcoming Congregation Handbook: Resources for Affirming Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and/or Transgender People

Welcoming Congregation Program History

UUA marks Welcoming program milestone

More on Welcoming Congregations

Heroism in the face of insensible violence: The shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

They say that 60 year old Greg McKendry stood in front of the gunman and took the blasts to protect the rest of the congregation. After killing two adults and wounding seven others, the gunman was overpowered by congregants. I hear there were 200 people in attendance and a lot more ammunition. It could have been much worse if not for the bravery of these people.

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

CNN Reports

What else do we know about the TVUUC? They have a beautiful pipe organ:

Kids, music and movement are integral parts of TVUUC:

From UUA President, Revenend Sinkford:
A tragedy such as this makes us acutely conscious of the beauty and fragility of our lives and those of our loved ones. I am especially saddened by this intrusion of violence into a worship service involving children and youth. I know that many people, both in Knoxville and around the country, are struggling with shock and grief right now. I pray that those so affected will find strength and comfort.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Rapture Is Not An Exit Strategy

I've been reading the Military Religious Freedom Foundation website and newsletter for a couple of months now. There seems to be some crossover between church and state going on in our military. Which is against the law, but hey, that hasn't stopped this administration on several other fronts so nobody seems to expect this to matter to them now.

The image on the right kind of summarizes the whole issue for me. I call it "Rifles and Bibles".

I thought it was those nut job Taliban guys that did stuff like this -

A Hamas suicide bomber posing with a rifle and a copy of the Koran.

not our guys and gals.

From Saturday, May 26, 2007

I don’t feel exactly comfortable with the idea that megaton loaded nuclear bombers are flying around with crews who believe the Book of Revelation is going become reality anytime.

“The Christian Taliban is running the Department of Defense, It inundates everything. Can you imagine a contingent of religious zealots, with their contempt for secular values (and such manifestations of secular order as the U.S. Constitution) — and with their zest for holy war — in control of the most potent fighting force and weaponry in human history? Is this possible? Well, said Weinstein, consider the 523rd Fighter Squadron, based at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., which calls itself The Crusaders, and whose emblem consists of a sword, four crosses and a medieval knight’s helmet. They fly F-16s with payloads consisting of “a wide variety of conventional, precision guided and nuclear weapons.” And listen once again to Commander-in-Chief Bush, speaking in 2003 to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If this is a religious war — a “clash of civilizations,” waged by competing agents of God’s will — victory may be indistinguishable from Armageddon. God help the human race.”

Friday, July 4, 2008

Black National Anthem

It took me awhile but I finally found a video of the whole song. It's a beautiful thing. I thought others might want to see and hear it also, so I'm posting it.

Denver "Singer opts for black national anthem lyrics over 'Star-Spangled Banner'", from the LA Times.