Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who have sent their messages of hope and good thoughts to our family and our congregation. There have been so many good things to come out of something so awful that it shows the power of love and peace.
Our friend Tammy is the only person left in the hospital and she has been moved to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and is doing pretty well all things considered. The love and strength of her family and friends is a testament to Tammy’s own positive traits and the care she has shown others in the past. Fingers crossed she will be home soon.
The minister of our church when I first joined was with us all last week which I know many people found helpful. She wrote a lovely article for the Washington Post which I’m going to put in the extended entry here as the link isn’t working for me now. I think it again shows the way Knoxville came together to show care and love. That has been very powerful for our own family.
And here’s the text:
WASHINGTON POST / NEWSWEEK “On Faith”
Lynn Thomas Strauss
August 5, 2008
This past Sunday, I participated in the service of re-dedication at the
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. It is eight
years since I served there as minister, and one week since a man entered
that sanctuary intending to be a mass murderer, intending to be a murderer
of children. He killed two adults and seriously wounded 6 other adults
before he was quickly subdued by members of the congregation.
That beautiful sanctuary that I helped build and bless, had, through a
horrible, senseless act of violence been turned into a crime scene, a trauma
center, a wake, a memorial, a weeklong media event.
That Sunday, the children and teens of both the Tennessee Valley Church and
the Westside Unitarian Universalist church were presenting the play, “Annie
Jr.” But, instead of seeing a play, they saw murder, instead of hearing a
musical, they heard shattering shotgun blasts.
It was hard to believe it had really happened until I ran my hands over the
scarred walls where pellets were embedded. It was hard to believe until I
heard the accounts told in still-shaky voices, over and over. It was hard to
believe until I saw signs of traumatic stress in the reddened, tired eyes of
so many. It was hard to believe until the names of those killed and wounded
The Tennessee Valley congregation was the first church I served as a UU
minister. Moving from Chicago to Knoxville and learning ministry in the
Bible Belt was a profound experience for me. The need for liberal ministry
is clear there, where Christian fundamentalism is strong. The Tennessee
Valley congregation has always stood up for equality, diversity, and
religious liberty. Unitarian Universalism is a faith that values difference
of opinion and belief . As a liberal religion we value people of different
colors, genders and sexual orientations. We believe that all people have
worth and dignity, and we try to live that belief.
Religious groups sometimes build walls, high brick walls between different
faiths and denominations. Some think that those on the other side of their
carefully constructed walls are to be feared or hated. Some apply labels,
and teach prejudice.
In Knoxville, Unitarian Universalists were routinely labeled “Other”.
Unitarian Universalists were often marginalized within the larger faith
community. Our children were regularly told by other children that “they
were going to go to hell” unless they believed a certain doctrine. The walls
between the churches were old and sturdy; the walls were high and
But last week, those walls came tumbling down. Last week the Tennessee
Valley Unitarian Church was the recipient of wondrous love and generous
compassion. Last week, the Presbyterians took in our children as they ran
from the gunman. Last week the Baptists brought food everyday. Last week,
the Jews lit candles for us and attended our vigil. Last week the Muslims
prayed for us. Last week, the Quakers and the Catholics and the
Episcopalians brought flowers and sent cards. Strings and strings of
colorful paper peace doves were brought for the children.
All last week the church was open to the community, open for silent
meditation in the sanctuary, open for shared meals, open for prayer, open
for sharing pain and compassion, open for all who brought blessings and good
wishes. The church was filled with people all day, every day.
Last week, the walls of religious separation came tumbling down. It was a
kind of miracle. A miracle of grace and the human spirit. As Rev. William
Sinkford, Unitarian, Universalist Association President, wrote in a letter
read at the service: “Your love has overpowered fear”. For one week there
were no separate denominations or faith groups in the city of Knoxville. For
one week, we were one grieving family, one in our sorrow, and one in our
resolve to witness to peace.
As the service ended yesterday, lay and ordained ministers walked to the
back of the crowded sanctuary and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Rev.
Chris Buice, minister of the Tennessee Valley Church as he spoke words of
re-dedication of that sacred space. We stood on the spot where the gunman
had stood, near where the first victim was killed; we stood confident that
love overcomes hate, that love is the spirit of our church. We stood as the
congregation joined the children and teens in singing, “The sun will come
out tomorrow” – the song they had not gotten to sing a week earlier. We were
standing on the side of love.
Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of