The shooting death of two members during a worship service at the Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee has resulted in an outpouring of prayers and messages of support from around the country. Waltham Unitarian Universalists, like myself, grieve for our brothers and sisters in Knoxville.
As spiritual seekers who have taken a hard look at human social life, we can begin to understand the depth of feeling that can drive an abusive man with a history of contempt for gays and liberals, as this shooter appears to have been.
But it is still shocking to see such hatred acted out and to recognize ourselves as its victims. Our Waltham church has been plagued by only minor vandalism due to our support of gay and lesbian marriage rights. And, thankfully, here in our city we are not alone in that social stand as Unitarian Universalist churches in other parts of the country often are. It is good to feel surrounded by friends in such emotion filled circumstance.
Most news reports focus on the shotgun-wielding intruder, but I find the churchmen who confronted him more worthy of contemplation — John Bohstedt, Terry Uselton, Jamie Parkey, and, especially, Greg McKendry (deceased) who was the quickest to action.
It is certainly true, as the Knoxville News Sentinel observed, “that no place is immune to such violence”, but the heroes of compassion and bravery, like these who rise to the community's need, are the ones who will see us through to a more just and caring day.
I am told that at the public vigil held on Tuesday in support of our Knoxville parishioners the final song was so emotion packed that the crowd erupted in shouts and cheers for the young singers, applause and tears of gratitude for the community’s concern, as well as grief for the victims of such an outrage. Amen to that.