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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bad time at UU Church

(CNN) -- An armed man opened fire on worshippers in a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tennessee, during a children's play Sunday, critically wounding seven people, police and church members said.

People embrace outside a Knoxville, Tennessee, church where a gunman opened fire Sunday.

Detectives were questioning the suspected gunman Sunday afternoon after the "horrendous" attack, Deputy Police Chief Bill Roehl said.

"To our knowledge right now, he is the lone suspect in this case," Roehl said.

The man entered the church and began shooting during a children's production of the musical "Annie," said Steve Drevik, a church member who arrived after man's arrest.

"We have a lot of scared, traumatized children and they just don't know what to think," Drevik said.

The seven gunshot victims were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, just across the Tennessee River from the church, said Capt. Brent Seymour, a Knoxville Fire Department spokesman. All of the wounded appeared to be adults, Seymour said.
About 12 others were treated for minor injuries at the church, he said.

The suspect, whose identity was not immediately released, was taken into custody without a fight after police arrived, Roehl said. Drevik said the man did not appear to be a church member.

"We don't know this particular individual. We may never know why," Drevik said. "All of this will come out in the next couple of days."

In a written statement, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam said the city "suffered a tragedy" on Sunday.
"Our thoughts at prayers are with the victims, their families, and the church community," he said.

But Roehl said many of those still at the church were "very calm" as detectives went over the sanctuary-turned-crime scene.

"It's terrible that you come to church do worship and something like this occurs," he said. "It's very horrendous."

Dear SUUSI Community,

Many of us have heard about the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church this morning (Sunday). This sad and shocking act brings to mind the TVUUC members and friends who attend SUUSI and help form our wonderful community that we cherish. We know they represent a loving and caring UU community, and the hearts and prayers of SUUSI are with the TVUUC family as they face this tragedy. In the coming days, we'll learn of any needs that we can help meet. Until then, we'll all continue to hold TVUUC tenderly in our thoughts and closely in our hearts. As our friends mourn and question, may our care from near and far be of support though the enduring bonds of love.


Jerry King, SUUSI Director

Bill Neely, President of the SUUSI Board of Directors

Accused church shooter threatened to kill wife, himself, article, with lots of comments.


  • At 6:56 AM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said…

    Both Liza Alexander and David Adkisson are in the 96 and 97 Mugbooks. Only Liza is in 98, 2000, and 2001. I haven't located 99 yet.

  • At 6:57 AM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said…

    I didn't do that research (above).

  • At 7:47 PM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said…

    From the TJ UU newsletter:

    Thomas Jefferson District of the UUA
    SPECIAL NOTICE for TJD Leaders

    July 29, 2008

    I have never been so proud of being a Unitarian Universalist as I was yesterday in Knoxville.

    It started when 30 or so people, some from TVUUC, some from Westside UU Fellowship, some from the Red Cross, some of the local mental health agency, some from our own UU Trauma Response Team, several local UU ministers, and Sue Sinnamon and I from the TJ District staff, gathered together to plan the day, or should I say, the day after. The meeting was chaotic, disjointed, and disorganized -- much like so many people in the room felt on this Monday morning -- yet our task was clear. What needed to be done on this day and in the immediate days to follow to begin the healing process in the wake of Sunday's devastating tragedy?

    After only a few minutes, one subgroup broke off and began planning the critical incident stress debriefing sessions that would be held from 5 to 7 pm that evening, sessions that were age- and situation-appropriate: those who witnessed the attack and those who did not, those from TVUUC, those from Westside, children and adults in the cast of "Annie," pre-schoolers, first and second-graders, second and third graders, and on and on. Another group created a master list of all the decisions, all the tasks, all the work that needed to be done this week, from getting the damaged pews out of the sanctuary and into storage to planning the vigil that was happening that night to imagining a re-dedication of the sacred space that is the TVUUC building. Within a short couple of hours, amidst all the heavy hearts in the TVUUC building that day, a plan to start the healing process was born.

    My growing sense of pride resurfaced again as I sat with the Reverend Rosemary Bray-McNatt from UU Trauma Response Ministry and TVUUC member Bill Dockery as they mentored newly-elected TVUUC president Ted Jones and immediate past-president, Jane Raparelli, in how to handle the relentless media demands that were coming into the congregation. With phone consultation from several UUA staffers including Kay Montgomery, Harlan Limpert, and especially John Hurley and Janet Hayes, a plan to respond appropriately and comfortably to the media was born.

    By late afternoon, I watched as UUA President, Bill Sinkford, who had arrived only moments before, and TVUUC President, Ned Jones, go to speak to the multiple media representatives who had been camping out in the TVUUC parking lot waiting for something they could report as the latest news. Bill and Ned together couldn't have represented Unitarian Universalism any better than they did standing on the front lawn, speaking over rush-hour traffic, and talking about who we are as people who accept all who come to us, not leaving anyone out, even someone who eventually might come back to inflict such deep pain on all of us. I didn't believe I could ever be more proud of our faith and the liberal religious values we hold as I was at that moment. But I soon learned how wrong I was.

    After the media event was over, I made my way up the hill to 2nd Presbyterian Church, a congregation literally right next door, a congregation that sheltered our children as they ran in panic from our church building Sunday morning, a congregation that generously offered to host our debriefing sessions and our public vigil that night. When I arrived at the church, the debriefing sessions were underway but already people had begun to arrive for the vigil. By the time the debriefing sessions were over, the building was already filled to overflowing. As the skies opened up with a torrential downpour of rain, people from TVUUC, Westside UU Fellowship, the new UU satellite congregation in Blount County, 2nd Presbyterian, people from synagogues, from mosques, from area Christian churches, and others from all over the Knoxville region scrambled to get in from every open door in this large church complex.

    Starting the service with an emotional rendition of Spirit of Life, the Reverend Chris Buice, minister of TVUUC, gave the opening words and identified the "power in this room." "The presence of so many people from so many faith traditions being here for our church means so much to us," he said. The Reverend Bill Sinkford then helped us all try to accept that it was not possible to make sense of such a senseless act but that by owning our feelings of anger, grief, hurt, helplessness and pain, we could work through this together. Surprisingly to many of the non-UUs in the crowd, Bill's recounting of a reporter's question about whether the man responsible for this tragedy would go to hell brought spontaneous laughter from the large UU contingent, a welcome break in the tension of the day. But Bill's answer to the reporter's query returned the congregation to somberness as he said, "In my religious tradition, this man has already been living in hell here on earth." It was Bill's clarity about how the strong social justice tradition of this congregation will not let it retreat in the wake of this tragedy that brought tears to my eyes. He said that none of us can allow our pain and anger to keep us from living our faith, from welcoming all people, from standing on the side of love. "We will not let that happen," he said. "We will continue our commitment to welcoming all people."

    After Bill's remarks, the Reverend Rosemary Bray-McNatt led us in a silent candlelight meditation. As the darkened room brightened with the hundreds of lit candles, she reminded us that we are but one small light but when joined together with others, our light will shine forth. The Reverend Mitra Jafarzedeh, minister of Westside UU Fellowship, closed the service by saying this was not a closing but a beginning. "Go forth in light," she said, "be daring and audacious enough to have hope. Let nothing silence us."
    And Mitra was right, we were just beginning. During the pre-service debriefing session held with the cast of the play being performed at the Sunday service, the members of the "Annie" cast asked for the opportunity for some closure to the months of work they had put into this performance. As Mitra finished her words, the cast stepped forward at front of the sanctuary and began singing the "Annie" theme song, Tomorrow. The congregation spontaneously joined in singing with them and after a few seconds, when the impact of this moment had sunk in, the crowd erupted into applause, tears, shouts, cheers, and many more tears. As the cast finished their grande finale, they took their long-awaited bows to an adoring, grief-stricken, and healing audience.

    For those of you who don't remember all of the words of Tomorrow, let me share them with you here.
    The sun'll come out
    Bet your bottom dollar
    That tomorrow
    There'll be sun!
    Just thinkin' about
    Clears away the cobwebs,
    And the sorrow
    'Til there's none!

    When I'm stuck a day
    That's gray,
    And lonely,
    I just stick out my chin
    And Grin,
    And Say,

    The sun'll come out
    So ya gotta hang on
    'Til tomorrow
    Come what may
    Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
    I love ya Tomorrow!
    You're always
    A day
    A way!
    (Composer: Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin - From: Broadway Musical "Annie")

    I can't think of any more appropriate song to guide us all through this dark time. "Proud of my faith" does not even begin to describe my feelings as I stood there with hundreds of other devastated members of a large interfaith community, cheering our UU children into a brighter future.

    Yours in faith and love,
    Annette Marquis

    UUA announcement and Resources that may help
    (July 28 - 10:15 PM)
    In the wake of the tragic shootings on July 27, 2008 which resulted in two deaths and injuries to six others, Unitarian Universalists are rallying to offer ministry and support to the affected members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and the Westside Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

    UUA Thomas Jefferson District (TJD) Executive Annette Marquis has arrived in Knoxville to provide support and guidance to the Tennessee Valley and Westside congregations. Two members of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt and Rev. Susan Suchoki Brown, are also on the scene to provide additional support to members of the two congregations directly affected by this tragedy. Retired UU minister Rev. Gordon Gibson was attending the service on Sunday morning when the shootings occurred; Gibson is among those ministers now providing ministerial support on site. Sue Sinnamon, TJD Director of Faith Development, also arrived in Knoxville today to work with families and youth affected by the tragedy.

    UUA President William G. Sinkford, who released a statement within hours of the tragedy (see Statement by Rev. Sinkford) is now in Knoxville and spoke tonight at a candlelight vigil held at the Second Presbyterian Church, located next to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

    Additional information and resources have been posted to and other sites. They include:
    Trauma Response Resources for Families and Congregations, now available at
    "Making Meaning After Disaster," a resource by Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh (Making Meaning After Disaster
    Prayers from interfaith and international partners can be found at: Prayers. has posted information and will continue to update their pages. See for reporter Donald Skinner's story on the tragedy.
    Information on vigils and services of remembrance is being collected and posted at Vigils and services.
    The UUA has opened a web space for those who wish to share messages of support with Unitarian Universalists of Knoxville. Please visit this new site to read or to post your own message: Support blog.
    Information on the Unitarian Universalist response to the Knoxville shootings will be updated regularly and posted at News.
    For continuing Unitarian Universalist Association news and information, subscribe to


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