Sunday’s shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville has shocked and saddened people all across the country, even across lines that otherwise might divide us. In addition to the tragedy of such an event, we all must wrestle with the feelings of horror that such a thing could and did happen in a sanctuary, the very definition of a safe place.
Even as our prayers and thoughts go out to those most directly affected by Sunday’s events, in our sorrow, questions rush in at an alarmingly unanswerable rate. How could this happen? Could it happen to us? What would I/we have done? What can I do to help? How can I keep my kids safe?
In confronting a hate crime, or any act of terror such as this, let us remember one response is necessary and that response is love. I don’t mean “love” in any simple sense, but rather love in its most expansive, stubborn, difficult and hard-won sense. I mean the kind of love that gets smacked hard on the cheek for valuing every human being and then offers the other cheek without hesitation because love is how and why we survive.
It is love that brings us together, in solidarity, with those suffering broken bones and hearts.
It is love that calls us to speak out against violence with our voices and our hands.
It is love that enables a mother to envelope a child with her body, bare to any risk.
It is love that enables a man, without thought or reason, to put his body in the pathway of untold destruction.
It is love that builds a home for gay teens in a hostile town.
It is love that walks across bridges in numbers too large to ignore and love that feeds the hungry and love that rebuilds the houses torn down by wind and rain and apathy.
And, yes, it is our love for one another that makes an incident like this hurt so much.
As we work to heal and hope, let love be our most reached-for tool.
Things you can do:
• Attend the vigil at the First Unitarian Church on Wednesday, July 30, at 5:30 pm. Our interim minister, Rev. Lyn Oglesby will be with us to lead the service.
• Assure your children (if they have been hearing reports) that even in what was an incredibly scary situation, the adults of the church did everything they could to protect the children and that no children were physically harmed in the incident.
• Make a card to send to the church communities. Though the incident happened at Tennessee Valley UU, victims also included members of neighboring Westside UU Church. Cards to both communities would be welcome. Cards can be sent directly to the churches:
• Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
• Westside Unitarian Universalist Church
616 Fretz Rd., Farragut, TN 37934
• Send prayers and good thoughts of healing and hope to the people affected by the violence of this event.
• Raise your children in a church community that values all people, resists violence and promotes love as a powerful antidote to hate.
• Love one another deeply, beyond reason or sense.