Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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

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