Just wanted to share the letter I sent to my congregation, regarding the Knoxville shootings. I sent it before learning of the deaths of the two UUs.
Dear UUCA Members and Friends,
As you may already know, today (Sunday) a shooting occurred at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee where seven people reportedly suffered serious wounds and are in critical condition, while another 12 were treated for minor wounds. The suspect opened fire inside the church at about 10:18 a.m. He had no connection to the church.
We feel such anguish for the Knoxville congregation right now. Some of us have friends at this church—we see them regularly at various national and district events and gatherings, including the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (or SUUSI). Whether or not we know people from this church, our grief and sadness and anger overflow. It is so hard to comprehend senseless violence on this scale.
Please keep the Knoxville congregation in your thoughts and prayers in this time. There will be a vigil in the UUCA sanctuary this Monday at 7:15pm—please join us.
In the rest of this pastoral letter, I’d like to (1) offer up some resources that might be helpful to you right now, (2) say a little about how people cope in times like this, and (3) remind you about some pastoral care resources at UUCA that you can tap into, as necessary.
àUUA Trauma Response Ministry Web Site: Contains many helpful resources for times like this (look under “resources”): http://www.traumaministry.org/
à“Talking to children about tragedies”: http://www.simplemommysecrets.com/Pages/ArtBMI14.htm
àA poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
à“Words for When I’m Wordless,” by Therese Borchard: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2007/04/words-for-when-im-wordless.html
àA Buddhist prayer: “May Fear Be Cleared Away” by Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden
May the pain of every living being
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed…
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed.
the universe barely holds our grief this day.
and now in the aftermath of unspeakable horrors
at the Knoxville UU Church.
Apprehension stirs in our hearts and minds.
Questions of why and how have barely formed on our lips
when we realize how inadequate and ill timed they are.
Bring comfort, we pray, to everyone touched by this tragedy.
Help your people everywhere to live courageously,
not being overcome by anxiety or fear,
but overcoming even these in the spirit of love.
and walk together into the future with hope.
At times like this, you might find yourself wanting to know as many details about what happened as possible; you may find yourself glued to the TV or the internet. Others of you may want to get as much distance away from this as you can. People respond to tragedies like this in different ways, and all of these ways of coping are normal.
The personal impact of a tragedy like this can’t be underestimated. A moment like this can trigger memories of times when tragedy visited us and left us feeling out of control in our own lives. Please treat yourself with care and compassion.
Dr. Nadine Kaslow, from Emory School of Medicine, says that one of the best things that can happen in a messy time like this is to take things step by step and to help each other. She says, “One of the things you can do is let people talk, let them share their stories, let them talk about what they want, but also sometimes, they’re going to want to be distracted, and that’s okay too. Appreciate that everybody has a different way of responding.”
Some Care Resources Available at UUCA
There will be a vigil this Monday at 7:15pm in the UUCA sanctuary
Our UUCA Lay ministers provide pastoral care in the form of home and hospital visits during times of personal crisis and are available to provide longer term pastoral support to members. For pastoral care needs please contact the UUCA Office at 404.634.5134 and request to have a lay minister call you. You may also contact the lay ministers directly by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For assistance with families and children, please contact UUCA’s Director of Religious Education, Pat Kahn at 404.634.5134 or email@example.com
Rev. Anthony David
Rev. Marti Keller