Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Church Is Suffering

Most of you have heard of the shooting today at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. This is my church.

I was not there. I have not attended services in a long time. I am still a member but I have become lazy on Sundays, especially in the summer.

This church is very special to me. I have never been a religious person. I am a questioner but not one to look for answers from traditional religions. I always felt that I was sort of on my own quest, looking for answers that I could understand and believe in. I had great respect for those that had a strong sense of faith but I did not have that when it came to spirituality or religion.

After my husband died, I felt that I was missing something in my heart. I never could really pinpoint what that was but I felt empty. Then 9-11 happened. People in the country came together, some in faith and some in anger. I felt the need to belong but I needed to belong to a group that felt as I did, that didn't blame every Muslim person for the acts of a few. One that didn't condemn gays and lesbians. One that realized people change. One that lived the golden rule. I was missing some sense of community and wasn't sure where to find it.

I was on an internet discussion group for widows when the discussion of religion came up. One person brought up the Unitarian Church and how it had helped her. I began searching for information and found TVUUC. This seemed to be what I was searching for. A spiritual community that didn't tell you how to believe or what to believe, but one that helped you along on your spiritual journey. I visited several times and felt so comfortable. It was the first time I ever felt at home in a church. I joined small group ministries. I served on the minister's advisory group. I loved it.

Some are confused by Unitarians. They say we don't believe in anything. Not true. We seek understanding of all beliefs, religious traditions, and practices. We are not a Christian religion yet we have many Christians in our church. We have Christmas Eve services every year and sing traditional holiday carols. But we also have those that were raised in the Jewish faith, we have athiests, agnostics, and pagans. We have those that don't want to be classified as anything. We have many doctors, scientists, and university professors. Unitarians seemed to be highly educated, very open minded individuals. We have very spirited discussions on religion, spirituality and, of course, politics. We are involved in many social causes and many are active in county and city government. Quite a diverse group of people.

And apparently, we have heroes too. Today a man walked into the service while the children were performing and opened fire with a shotgun. He killed one member and another has died tonight. There are 5 other members in critical condition at a local hospital. Members of the congregation tackled the man and ended his mayhem quickly. Other members got the children out quickly and to the church next door. Still others with medical training reacted quickly to help treat the injured. Our minister left his family vacation in North Carolina immediately and was at the hospital and church within hours.

We are all grieving. Every Sunday service opens with the congregation saying in unison:

Love is the spirit of this church and service is its law. This is our covenant to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, to help one another.

Today that peace was shattered. I pray that the members of our church find peace once again. Please keep TVUUC and the families in your prayers.


Wanda said...

Oh Tere ~~ I had not heard this on the news, so came as a total surprise when I saw your blog this morning.

I am so sorry for the loss in your church, and the horrible experience that must have been for everyone there.

It was good to hear your testimony of your personal spiritual journey.

I will pray for your peace and for the peace and comfort of those close to you in your church.

"Religion" has never helped me...but my entire life is based on my personal "relationship" to the Lord.
I'm so glad the Almighty gave people the gift of choice and doesn't force it on us. We decided.

I'm loving on you big time this moring Tere.

Yvonne said...

It is so, so sad. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Ruth D~ said...

This is going to be something you ponder and deal with for a long time. The ugliness of it. The fact that you weren't there. It was all over the news here, and I never gave a thought that I might know someone who belonged to that church . . . but that isn't even the point, is it. I felt for the people even though I didn't know them. So sorry.