One year ago yesterday, Jim David Adkisson entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville during a children’s musical performance and began shooting. Before he was finally tackled by a courageous member of the congregation, Adkisson had killed 2 people–Linda Kraeger and Greg McKendry, an elder who attempted to block him from shooting other people–and wounded six.
Adkisson claimed he was attacking “the liberals,” particularly those who welcome gays and lesbians. Adkisson pleaded guilty to the rampage and is now serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. One year later, church members have not allowed Adkisson to dictate their response to this tragedy. They are not acting from a place of hate with a thirst for vengeance as he was. Instead,the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is a living witness to its faith in the power of love and inclusivity, moving other congregations to become more welcoming of gay and lesbian people while starting new churches along the way.
I am so grateful for the witness of communities of faith such as this congregation who, though violated and attacked, refuse to allow violence, hate, and fear to dictate their response to tragedy. Instead, they choose to celebrate life and to welcome others who might be targets of discrimination.
I hope we can all learn from their witness.
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