KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A gunman opened fire at a church youth performance Sunday, killing two people, including a man witnesses called a hero for shielding others from a shotgun blast.
Seven adults were injured, five seriously, but no children were harmed at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
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These diverse religious institutions are pulling together and lending support in this time of crisis, while an entire community tries to make sense out of a senseless crime.
Why was this one Unitarian church targeted by a man with no apparent connection to the congregation? While investigators are looking into whether this was a “hate crime,” they have yet to determine a motive. And neighbors of the suspect describe 58-year-old Jim Adkisson as a “really nice guy” who did not seem like a threat.
Tonight, the community is mourning the deaths of two victims, while also counting its blessings. Had it not been for the heroic actions of church members who reportedly blocked the gunman’s shots and tackled him before he could reload, authorities say the outcome could have been far worse.
We like to think of our houses of worship as refuges — places that enable us to transcend the problems of the world, even if for only an hour each week.
Members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church probably had the same presumption this morning, as they watched their children perform a play. But then the problems of the world came to church in the form of a gunman. This apparent stranger opened fire — killing at least one person and injuring more than half a dozen others before members of the congregation were able to subdue him until police arrived.
The church posted the following statement on its website:
- Our congregation is recovering from the violent incident that occurred during this morning’s worship service. Please keep us in your prayers.
AND FROM THE WORLD'S POINT OF VIEW THIS IS A CHURCH.
- The church, like many other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
WE BELIEVE in the freedom of religious expression. All individuals should be encouraged to develop their own personal theologies, and to present openly their religious opinions without fear of censure or reprisal.