This service was held at Second Presbyterian Church of Knoxville, on the property adjoining the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
Prelude (no title available)
(name of speaker not available)
On behalf of the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church,
I welcome all of you to this sanctuary.
We especially want to extend the hand of friendship to our neighbors, our
brothers and sisters of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
This is a time of unspeakable heartbreak
and in this time, we humbly recognize that there is no such thing as
denomination. We recognize that
there are many people, people of faith.
We stand with you. We all
stand this night as one. We grieve
as one and we rage as one and together we hold each other up. Surely, surely, it is my conviction that
the Lord is in this place.
Come, pray, rest a
while. You are safe and you are
most welcome here.
“Spirit of Life”
There is power in this room.
The presence of so many people, of so many different faith traditions
that are here to support our church means so much to us.
I’m Chris Buice. I’m minister of the Tennessee Valley
Unitarian Universalist Church. As a
young man fresh out of college I took a class called “Build Your Own Theology”
where I engaged in an overly-intellectual exercise of writing my own definition
of the word “God,” and here it is.
Whenever two or more people gather together to love and support and
encourage each other, there is a power greater than ourselves that can renew,
restore and sustain us, and that power is in this room. And to that power, I offer this prayer:
God, Spirit of life whose presence is felt in the deepest of
sorrows, Now more than ever, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, may we so
love. Where there is hurt, may we
bring healing. Where there is
despair, may we bring hope. Where
there is fear, may we have courage.
Where there is chaos, may we build community. Where there is ill will, may we bring
understanding and compassion. Where
there is darkness, may we bring light.
Where there is only light, may we bring all the colors of a rainbow, all
the colors of the full spectrum of life.
Spirit of life, be with us this day. Amen.
Good Evening. I am Reverend William Sinkford and it is
my privilege to serve as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of
Congregations. I am here
representing more than one thousand Unitarian Universalist congregations, including our good congregations here in
Knoxville. Here representing them and bringing them
the thoughts and the prayers and the wishes for healing not only to our
congregations but to this community and I bring those wishes not just from
Unitarian Universalist congregations—[thunder]. We don’t know who is speaking
outside. But we trust, we have
faith, that it’s a friendly voice.
But I also wanted you to know that I bring greetings to our congregations
here at this community from Unitarian and even Unitarian Universalist
communities around the world, from the Khasi Hills of India, from the
United Kingdom, from the Canadian Unitarian Council. The list goes on and on. Although we are a large gathered
community here this evening, we are only part of the community that gathers in
support of the healing that needs to take place in this sanctuary and in this
You should also know
that as we gather here tonight, in Boston
Massachusetts, which is where the headquarters
of the Unitarian Universalist Association reside, a gathering probably
considerably larger than this has convened and they will be lighting candles as
we will be later in support and solidarity with you here in Knoxville.
I’m struck by the size of this community here and I thought
it might be helpful just—although I only flew in this afternoon and so I’m not
going to know all of the names to call out—just to allow us all to understand
who here is here tonight, who decided that they needed to be here on this
evening with this company. And so I
know that there are many, many members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian
Universalist Congregation here. Can
you just raise your hands so people can see who you are? Thank you. And I know that there are members of the
Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation as well. Would you raise your hands? Excellent. And I think there are people here from
Second Pres, are there not? I see
one. If you could just raise your
hands...And from the Jewish congregation, adjacent? A few. A few. And then how many of you
are from other congregations or from no congregation who are just members of the
Knoxville Community who decided that you needed to be here on this night in this
place? Look at the hands.
We are here tonight—I would guess almost all of us—trying
to make sense out of senselessness.
Out of senselessness, because the acts of yesterday morning at Tennessee Valley are, for I’ll wager everyone in this
room, acts that we say don’t compute. They
simply don’t —they’re not a part of our world. And so one of the responses for at least
many of us is to try to figure them out, to try to—knowing more about exactly
what happened—to try to read the letter that the alleged shooter, so that you
can try to understand his motivations.
You try to understand as many of the details so that you can celebrate
the great courage that was demonstrated yesterday and weep wholeheartedly for
the great sorrow that yesterday’s events that caused. But we try to figure it out, to come up
with a sense for something that is fundamentally senseless. And often, that striving for to
understand the event is our way of avoiding what’s going on for us in our
spirits, in our emotional life.
I’ll wager that in this room people have gone through anger, anger that
this man could have done those things in that place. I’ll wager that many, many of you have
touched that deep place of pain, where the tears simply came as you thought
about the losses that have been created.
I’ll bet many of you here have spent some time in confusion.
What does this all mean? I know that it doesn’t make any sense
but what am I supposed to feel?
What am I supposed to feel when I see those images and hear those
stories? What is a good person
supposed to feel and do? I’ll bet
all of those emotions and many more have been present for the persons who
have gathered here.
And then we have the difficult question of how we respond to
the person who created this havoc and this tragedy in our lives. How do we respond to the person? I was asked by a reporter, earlier today,
whether I thought the shooter would go to Hell, and my response was that in my religious tradition,
we would say that that person had been living in a Hell here on Earth for some time. And they said that that person had some
issues with some of the stands of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church
and Unitarian Universalism in general.
We live in a society where there are differences of opinion and Unitarian
Universalists and our congregations here have a long history of standing along
side of love, of standing up for justice and saying everyone should be welcomed
saying that we are churches of all souls, not just some souls.
And that's a deep religious calling for
us and the Tennessee Valley Church
and the Westside
Church and the Unitarian
Universalists is not going to change living our religion that way. We simply are not. Amen. And you can say amen to that. More and more of the people in this
sanctuary here tonight would say the same thing, would say the same things: that
we need to be willing to stand up and stand alongside with that larger love
which can help us move through these difficult times resulting from this tragedy
but these difficult times for our world right now. And we’re not going to stop
and you can’t stop it. You can’t
allow your fear or your confusion or your sorrow, you can’t allow any of those,
your anger, you can’t allow any of those emotions to keep you separated from
what is central to your living however you express it religiously.
This gathering here tonight is a hopeful gathering and I am
very glad that I am here even though it’s in the midst of tragedy, because this
gathering here tonight represents our greatest hope. Because there is no capacity
that we need more than the ability to come together as people of faith across the
boundaries of theology and liturgy and practice that we are so often told must
keep us apart. There is no capacity
that is more important than for us to be able to be here tonight, together as one
community, because in the face of tragedy, in the face of great tragedy, human
beings from time after time have done exactly this. It is a simple and a profound act of
presence for us to be together tonight to know that there is anger and sorrow
and pain and confusion in all of us to some degree and to say at some
fundamental human level 'we need to be together now because if we can not be
together now, we will never find a way to be together.'
Blessings upon each and every one of you
on the churches where you attend, the synagogues, the mosques, places of worship
where you find the spiritual nurturings. But remember the importance of this
place and this night and the hope that is here in the presence of tragedy. Thank you. Amen.
In the midst of normalness, in the
midst of sorrow, in the midst of insecurity and rage, let there be light.
Each of you holds a candle and we ask
that you hold it now. Light is not
meant to be in a single place. It
is meant to be shared broadly, widely, to move among us. It is meant to eliminate the dark
places, it is meant to drive out fear, meant to bring home, meant to give
We ask you to join us in a
candlelighting ritual . . . As the light
comes among you, please share it.
Share it with the person next to you. Hold it steady. [Silence] You may have only a small light. It may seem insignificant. It may take time to reach you, but over
time and with time, the light grows and illumines our lives.
As we begin a time of silence and a
meditation on these sorrowful events, we ask for the thoughts and prayers of all
gather here to join the thoughts and prayers of others whose faces we do not
know and whose names we can not find so that we might honor the family and the
friends of those so affected by yesterday’s tragedy:
of all light, God of many names and one . . . love. Hold these precious hearts and those who
love them in your embrace. We lead
you now into the silence. [Silence]
life, for those who have died, we ask that they and those who love them be held
especially close in your embrace.
For those who are recovering, we ask for grace and healing and
strength for them and for their families.
Finally, we ask for courage to step into tomorrow with all our doubts and
fears, with all our sadness, remembering that even amid such sorrow life is
ours to live. We ask these things
in the name of all that is holy.
“How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Dear friends, my name is Mitra Jafarzadeh and I’m the Minister at
Westside in Farragut.
asked to say some closing words but I’m here to tell you that this is not an
ending. Go forth into life. Be daring and audacious enough to have
hope. Live in a way that makes love
known and real. and stand on the side
of love. Dare to believe that grace
is true. And let nothing ever silence your song.
[The children who had been performing the production of "Annie, Jr." on July 27 when the attack on TVUUC occurred, entered the church, singing "Tomorrow." The congregation joined in singing with them.]
The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
There'll be sun!
Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
'Til there's none!
When I'm stuck a day
I just stick out my chin
sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
I love ya Tomorrow!
*"Tomorrow"—from ANNIELyric by Martin CharninMusic
by Charles Strouse
(Renewed) Edwin H. Morris & Company, A Division of MPL Music Publishing,
Inc. and Charles Strouse. All Rights on behalf of Charles Strouse Publishing
Administered by Williamson Music. All Rights Reserved.
[Cheering and applause. End of recording.]
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Last updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012.
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