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August 4, 2008

Beloved Colleagues,

The shooting last Sunday at the TVUUC in Knoxville has sent shock waves throughout our UU congregations. While it has been a devastating week for those most directly impacted by this violence, it has also been heartening to witness the courageous response of the congregation, supported so beautifully by colleagues both near and far. In particular we ask your continued prayers and support for the Rev. Chris Buice of TVUUC and the Rev. Mitra Jafarzedeh, minister of Westside UU Fellowship, as our colleagues on the front lines of this horrific event.

Once again we are called upon in our ministries to respond to with love and strength to a world which would have us submit to fear. Almost immediately after the incident occurred, TV news reported that it was the TVUUC’s stance on openness to gays and lesbians that motivated the shooter. The unfolding reality is much more complicated. The shooter, Jim Adkisson, appears to suffer from mental illness, which when combined with the stress of losing his food stamps led to a convoluted notion that “liberals” were somehow to blame for his woes. It appears that Jim feared anyone unlike himself, and in this sense the wide tent of Unitarian Universalism was perceived to be a threat to him. While there are real dangers associated with any prophetic witness, we cannot let our fears in any way diminish our commitments. Let us take strength from one another, and from the Spirit of Life and Love.

As the UUMA we are so grateful to our colleagues in the trauma ministry team who have provided such amazing support, as well as the Rev. Bill Sinkford who flew to be with the congregation almost immediately, the Rev. Gordon Gibson, who happened to be with the congregation the day of the shooting and has been of immeasurable support, and the Rev. John Buehrens, who preached at TVUUC on August 3rd as they rededicated their sanctuary. Staff from the TJ District and other nearby ministers have reached out in ways too numerous to tell, and hundreds of you have held vigils or have thrown out your sermons so that you can lift this issue on Sunday, and take up collections in support.

The UUA and its district staff have done a wonderful job of pulling together resources from how to talk to children about violence, to safety measures you can take in your congregations, to talking points for working with the press. We have provided links on the uuma website ( or you can simply log onto for more information.

In Faith, Love and Grief,

Rob Eller-Isaacs
President, UUMA

For the Executive Committee of the UU Ministers Association

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