Remarks: Annette Marquis, Thomas Jefferson District Executive
Sunday Worship, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC), Knoxville, TN
It is an honor to be with you this morning as we gather to mark the tragic events of a year ago. When we rededicated this sanctuary a week after the shooting, I told you that from nearby Tullahoma, TN, to those in far-away Tasmania, Australia, Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations all over the world were holding you in their hearts. Wherever I have gone this year, UUs have asked me how you are doing and what they could do to help. Your story has touched people souls and not because of what happened but instead because of how you have responded. You have lived the saving message of Unitarian Universalism and shown the world that love conquers hate, that we cannot be silenced, and that no matter what, we will stand on the side of love.
Now I know that this has been an intensely stressful year for many of you individually and for this congregation as a community. And I know you have not always acted perfectly, your patience has worn thin at times, you have been frustrated with each other, you have grown tired, at times, you have been inpatient, at times, you have said things that you wish you hadn’t of said. But I ask you today to forgive yourselves and each other for not being perfect, for letting the stress get to you, for being less than your best selves. Because forgiveness is part of the healing process just as much as anything else. I also ask you to continue to be gentle with each other. I know the temptation is there to want to put all this behind you, to move on, to not let it impact you any more but the fact of the matter is, as much as you want that, the trauma of last year is now woven into the DNA of this congregation and it cannot be ignored. Be gentle with each other and give each other time to heal, time to move on, time to build community that holds this story in its larger history.
And at the same time, acknowledge that you have inspired so many to live our values boldly in the world. At this year’s General Assembly, out-going Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Bill Sinkford announced the Standing on the Side of Love campaign.
Standing on the Side of Love is a public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Standing on the Side of Love will confront exclusion, oppression and violence based on identity. Based in the aspiration to create beloved community, the campaign will pursue social change through advocacy, public witness and speaking out in solidarity with those whose lives are publicly demeaned. All people, not just Unitarian Universalists, are invited to stand, speak, worship, march, roll, and live on the side of the love.
Rev Sinkford makes it clear that his he developed this campaign, in part, because of the tremendous power of love he experienced while he was standing with you last year. You have made and will make a difference because of the courage you have shown.
The UUA’s new president, the Reverend Peter Morales, has sent a letter to every UU congregation and asked that it be read today. I will share it with you now.
A year ago in Knoxville, TN, a man with a gun entered the Sunday morning worship service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people, Greg McKendry from TVUUC and Dr. Linda Lee Kraeger from Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, and wounded several others. That horrific act reminds us that when hate and fear take hold of the human heart, violence inevitably follows.
The response of the Knoxville UU congregations is a more potent reminder of the power of compassion, hope and courage. Rather than respond to hate with hate, they responded with love. Rather than allow fear to take over, they reaffirmed their commitment to a message of love. The care and support of their neighbors from other faiths reminds us all that our shared humanity and our love for one another are more powerful than our theological differences.
On this painful anniversary of a terrible tragedy, let us all commit ourselves once more to creating religious communities where love can flower. Let us commit ourselves to spreading our message of compassion, hope, understanding, community and joy to a world too often hurt by isolation, desperation and conflict.
Let us stand on the side of love. Love will guide us. It always has
Reverend Peter Morales
Unitarian Universalist Association
Thank you for the gifts you have given me, and know you are, and will continue to be held, in the hearts of UUs around the world.