Monday, July 28, 2008

Message to the Congregation concerning Tennessee Shooting

This message, from Board President Catherine Evans, was sent via Happenings this afternoon:

To the First Unitarian Community:
By now, most have heard of the shooting which took place at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The UUA has responded with its Trauma Response Team and is now on site assisting the two congregations (TVUUC and Westside Unitarian Universalist Church) that were traumatized by the killing.  Rev. William Sinkford, UUA President, will be leading a candlelight vigil in Knoxville tonight at 7:30 p.m. Central Time.
Some of you may be aware that our former Ministerial Intern Allison Farnum's mother lives outside of Knoxville.  She was in attendance at the service on Sunday, but, fortunately, was not injured.
First Unitarian is planning several responses.
First, there will be a vigil at First Unitarian on Wednesday, July 30, at 5:30.  Rev. Lyn Oglesby will be coming to Baltimore to lead the vigil.  Please plan to arrive at 5:30 pm.  The program will begin at (approx.) 5:45.  We will be reaching out to our neighbors, other churches, interfaith and partner organizations to participate.
We will be planning an appropriate observation for this Sunday's worship service with the service leaders, the Young Adult Group.
Finally, we will reach out to the Knoxville congregations in the manner which will be suggested by the UUA.  I have been receiving updates from the UUA and the JPD.  They have asked that we not attempt to contact the congregations directly by phone or e-mail.  For now, we will prepare cards for the congregations which can be signed by our members and mailed. Going forward, I am sure that we will be informed of the ways we can best be supportive.
I hope that you will be able to join us for the vigil on Wednesday.  In the meantime, I know that we will keep all the victims of this tragedy in our hearts.  You may wish to join in solidarity with Rev. Sinkford and those in Tennessee at 8:30 p.m. tonight by holding your own vigil in memory of the two Unitarian Universalists who died in this tragedy and the many others who have been injured from this violence that violated their sacred space.
...I would also like to share with you the following  communications I have received from Rev. William Sinkford, UUA President, Rev. Lyn Oglesby, and Revs. Phyllis Hubbell and John Manwell.

Catherine Evans
First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

I am shocked and sorrowed by the terrible shootings in the sanctuary of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. My heart is heavy and my prayers are with our injured sisters and brothers in Knoxville.  While many details of this tragedy remain unclear, our Association will do all we can to support Unitarian Universalists in Knoxville in the hard days to come.
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 those so affected will find strength and comfort.
Unitarian Universalists around the world are sending love and prayers to the Tennessee Valley congregation to tell them they are not alone on this dark day.

From REV. LYN OGLESBY, Ph.D., Interim Minister, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore:
Dear Members and Friends of First Unitarian Church, Baltimore,
We greeted this morning shrouded in sadness, stunned by grief and disbelief at the senseless murders of our colleagues at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
Our hearts, minds and prayers reach across the miles and mountains that separate us from our fellows, joining us in reverence for life, sorrow for the lost, courage for the survivors.
We are humbled by the martyrdom of Gregory McKendry Jr., who gave his life so that others might be saved.
We are saddened by the death of Linda Kraeger, an innocent victim of random violence.   We are hopeful for the speedy recovery of all who have been injured, emotionally and physically.
Our hearts go out especially to the families of those lost, and to the children who will be facing the difficult tasks of integrating this dreadful experience into their lives and their development as responsible human beings.
We are grateful that the Rev. Allison Farnum's mother and others escaped harm.
Your Board and leadership are planning a prayer vigil and meeting for this Wednesday, and ways to honor the victims at next Sunday's service.  Please refer to your notices via email and the church website for details.  I will speak at the Wednesday vigil.  We are reaching out to our friends and religious neighbors, inviting them to join us as we pray and meditate and sing and search our hearts and minds for ways to prevent violence and ways to reduce the kinds of pain and alienation that prompted the shooter, who was jobless and not blessed with the framework of inclusion and tolerance that fuels our religious movement.
Let us go about this week mindfully, with reverence for life and turning our sorrow into good works, intentionally using this time of grief to plan and perform acts of kindness, compassion, and love.  We have work to do.
In faith and love,

Friends, we are sorry that in our last few days as ministers of this church, perhaps our last message to you must be a pastoral one.
People throughout the country will mourn this loss, but it touches Unitarian Universalists more deeply. Some of us may well know members or staff in that church.  We know that these congregations will be in your hearts and that, however you respond as individuals and as a community, it will be with compassion.
The UUA staff and members of the UUA Trauma Response Ministry are already responding to this tragedy, providing support and resources to the congregation and its members.   Rev. Lisa Presley, one of our long-time ministers, reminds us that our children may hear of this incident and need reassurance that they are safe.  She adds that “this kind of anxiety is common, and open and honest communication is always the best.” The UU Trauma Response Ministry website has some resources on responding to children in these situations. You might also want to have your children draw pictures or make cards to send to the children of TVUUC and Westside.  Knowing that others are thinking of them is important at this time
As always, you remain in our hearts and our prayers.
Phyllis and John

No comments: