Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Looking for a lovely vacation next March? Why not tour Italy with a group of Unitarian Universalists and learn more about the Transcendentalists while you're there? The Rev. Jenny Rankin, one of the ministers at the First Parish in Concord, Mass. (where I once worked as high school youth programs director), is leading a ten-day expedition March 19 through 29, 2009. "Our itinerary includes Rome, Pienza and Florence, and is packed with visits to important classical sites such as the Pantheon, the Forum, the Vatican, Margaret Fuller's and Emerson's apartments in Rome, as well as visiting Theodore Parker's gravesite and the Brancacci Chapel in Florence." Ah! I've always wanted to see Italy in the spring. Maybe when Philo Jr is older.
There are still spots available on the tour. Learn more at the First Parish website.
Michael Paulson's Boston Globe story about Unitarian Universalist reactions to the Knoxville church shootings mentions the cascade of blog posts about the shootings in the UU blogosphere, but doesn't quote any of them. His blog post about the story, however, points to Philocrites, Orcinus (where UU co-blogger Sara Robinson offers this tribute to UU values), and coverage by UUA.org and UU World.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I found it especially heartbreaking to read these first-person accounts of the shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville by LiveJournal users bekitty, writingjen, daughter of shooting victim John Worth, and her husband salvador-dalai (via the UU LiveJournal group Chalice Circle).
See UU World's coverage of the Knoxville church shootings. The magazine's "Unitarian Universalists in the Media" blog is tracking news coverage of the shootings with daily roundups this week. Watch for a story about last night's interfaith vigil in Knoxville tomorrow.
UUA President William Sinkford, who traveled to Knoxville yesterday, has issued a second statement. The local district executive, Annette Marquis, has also written from Knoxville. The UUA has posted a guide to vigils at other UU churches throughout the country and, with the Thomas Jefferson District, launched a relief fund.
In the news, there's more about shooter Jim David Adkisson's purported motives and turbulent marriage to a former member of the Knoxville church a decade ago. The local media also profiles the victims and survivors and reports on last night's vigil, which attracted 1,000 people to an overflow service at the nearby Presbyterian church. A recording of the service is also available [mp3]. The Knoxville media are also introducing Unitarian Universalism to their audiences with stories about the religion itself: WBIR interviewed the Rev. Gordon Gibson, who is retired, but not a "former" minister, and who was in the church during the attack; the Knoxville News Sentinel interviews Sinkford.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Although I'm not sure what to make of the (probably) selective inventory of Knoxville gunman Jim David Adkisson's home library (mentioned in the latest report from the Knoxville News Sentinel) — antiliberal books by Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity — the police investigator's commentary strongly points toward ideologically motivated violence. Obviously his defense will attempt to offer another explanation, but it seems the gunman himself wanted his actions to be interpreted as antiliberal violence.
Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson, who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.
Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."
Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."
That's profoundly demented.
Visit Supporting Our Friends in Knoxville, a UUA-sponsored blog, to leave messages of support for the Unitarian Universalists in the communities affected by yesterday's church shooting.
More on the shooter in yesterday's deadly attack on the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville: His ex-wife, Liza Alexander, divorced him eight years ago after he threatened to kill her and himself, according to a new story at the Knoxville News Standard. A member of the church says Alexander had been a long-time member of the congregation.
The man who attacked the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville specifically targeted the Unitarian Universalists for their "liberal stance," according to the Knoxville police chief. WBIR reports:
-KPD Chief Owen says the shooter acted alone, and based on a leter [sic] found after the shooting, the suspect was troubled by joblessness, and wanted to strike a blow at a "liberal movement." -The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime. . . -The shooter brought 76 rounds of ammunition with him into the church. -Owen: Shooter targeted Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church due to "recent publicity" the church had received regarding its "liberal stance" on things. -Owen says the actions of the church members who tackled the shooter likely saved many lives, as it appears the shooter intended to try to kill as many people as possible, and did not expect to leave the church alive.
Here's more from the Knoxville News Standard:
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."
Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.
The letter, recovered from Adkisson's black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church's parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.
"He fully expected to be killed by the responding police," the police chief said.
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.
"It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance," the chief said. The church has a "gays welcome" sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.
The church's Web site states that it has worked for "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights" since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
A second victim of yesterday's horrific church shootings in Knoxville has died. Linda Kraeger, a 61-year-old member of the Westside UU Church, died from injuries she received when Jim Adkisson apparently began firing a shotgun as a children's performance of "Annie Jr" was about to begin at the Tennessee Valley UU Church. An usher who confronted the gunman was the first victim.
Meanwhile, police are holding Adkisson on first-degree murder charges and have searched his home and car, where they found a multi-page "manifesto," according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. A neighbor told the paper that Adkisson had expressed anger at Christianity in the past, which, if it turns out that his attack was religiously-motivated, could add a bitter irony to the story: He picked the least representative of churches to atone for what he perceived as Christianity's sins. He had no known prior relationship with TVUUC.
Update: This just in: The gunman specifically targeted the UU congregation for its "liberal stance," according to the police chief, who described the contents of the four-page letter the gunman left behind.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
A man fired multiple shotgun blasts during the worship service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville this morning, killing one and injuring several others. The attack took place during a children's performance of the play "Annie Jr," although thankfully none of the children was injured.
Greg McKendry, 60, was killed when he confronted the gunman, Jim Adkisson. Other church members tackled the gunman, who is now being held by police. News reports say that six to eight other adults were injured in the attack.
UUA President William Sinkford expressed his shock and sorrow in a statement released late this afternoon.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
While I was preoccupied with my adorable new son (who's now 13 lbs 2 oz at 9 weeks, thank you very much), there were all sorts of new developments in the 2009 UUA presidential race. The last time I mentioned the race was just after Laurel Hallman and Peter Morales announced in January that they were running to succeed Bill Sinkford, whose second term ends in June 2009. Since then:
UU World has profiled Hallman, senior minister of First Unitarian Church in Dallas, and Morales, senior minister of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo. (The magazine has also profiled incumbent financial advisor Dan Brody, who has announced that he's running for reelection. Incumbent moderator Gini Courter is eligible to seek a second full term, but has not yet announced her intentions; she had earlier served a partial term after the previous moderator resigned.)
Hallman and Morales responded to questions at a candidates forum at the General Assembly. Video of the debate is available at UUA.org. UU World's expanded web coverage of the forum was published July 21; a greatly abridged version will appear in the Fall issue of the magazine. A member of Morales's congregation, Martin Voelker, has prepared a transcription of the entire forum [pdf].
Bloggers are starting to chime in on the race. Anthony David, the former pastor of the UUA's ambitious Pathways new-church experiment near Dallas, indirectly attacked Morales's prescription for congregational growth. Thom Belote, minister of the UU congregation in Overland Park, Kansas (and a former guest blogger here at Philocrites), mentions but does not elaborate on his support for Hallman. Meanwhile, Jamie (aka Dubhlainn) explains why he's endorsing Morales.
Two bloggers, Martin Voelker of "Juugernaut" and Aaron Sawyer of "DiscoverUU," have launched a forum for debating the merits of the candidates, "A Fact Driven Forum to Compare the UUA Presidential Candidates". Former UUA financial advisor Larry Ladd, who is Hallman's life partner, insists the site can't be fair because Voelker is a Morales supporter. Voelker and Sawyer are looking for an ombudsman to respond to charges of bias on the site.
This Technorati search will help you track election-related blogging.
The candidates' websites are evolving and adding new material. For example, Hallman's site features a series of questions and responses and an Issues page. Morales's site includes a blog with comments and a campaign platform.
Video endorsements are cropping up at YouTube, with videos supporting Hallman and Morales. Both campaigns have also established a presence on Facebook: LaurelHallman4UUAPrez and Peter Morales for UUA President.
The UUA has set up an Elections section of UUA.org; the Presidency page will collect official materials as the campaigns continue.
P.S. I had speculated back in 2006 on how new Web technologies might play out in the 2009 race. How fun it is finally to find out!
Disclosure: As a UUA employee, I will not be expressing any personal opinions about the race or about individual candidates on this site or elsewhere, nor will this site accept paid advertisements related to the elections. You, however, are very welcome to discuss the race.
At long last, Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson has launched a blog about religion in the Boston area. Two years ago I had noticed that Boston.com had retooled Paulson's April 2005 blog about the selection of a new pope into an all-purpose religion blog, and added it expectantly to my July '06 list of favorite religion blogs, but no new content appeared there until this month. Check out the new Articles of Faith.
Reflecting the general absence of Unitarian Universalism-related news in the Boston area, despite the many UU churches, three districts, several service agencies, and denominational headquarters in the area, Paulson doesn't offer links to UU blogs or news — unless you count Beauty Tips for Ministers, which Paulson profiled last year — but then again, he only offers links to two Episcopal blogs and one Evangelical one. Despite all that, I'm still a fan.
Need a job? The Red Sox are looking to hire a second Wally, which gives the Philocrites family its favorite recent example of corporate-speak: "We want to make sure that we support the Wally program with Wallies," said team spokeswoman Susan Goodenow. The Globe Names column (fifth item) says, "According to an MLB job posting, applicants must be available on weekdays, weeknights, weekends, and holidays — in other words, every day — and have a minimum of one year experience as a sports mascot, theme-park character, or actor. Most importantly, applicants must be able to withstand high heat and be able to lift 50 pounds." What a job!
("Names," Mark Shanahan and Paysha Rhone, Boston Globe 7.23.08; photo by Flickr user BOldenburg used under a Creative Commons license)