While congregants at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church watched a youth performance Sunday, a gunman stormed in and unloaded a shotgun on the crowd. He killed one man before being tackled and stripped of his gun. Few details were known about the shooter. Here is what the AP had:
Church member Marty Murphy told The Knoxville News Sentinel that she was about 30 to 40 feet from the shooter when the rampage began.
“We heard the first shot,” she said. “It sounded like a bomb went off. We thought it was part of the program at first.”
She said church members dove under church pews and others ran out the sanctuary.
Murphy told the newspaper some of the children were close to the shooter when the attack began.
“One little girl had blood all over her,” she said. “She was just hysterical. I don’t know how that girl is going to sleep tonight.”
Another witness told the newspaper that the man killed was a hero.
“Greg McKendry stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us,” Barbara Kemper said.
Unitarian Universalism has roots in Christianity but it dismisses the Holy Trinity—many Christians would disagree with even calling it Christianity—and individual churches often incorporate other religious teachings into their DNA. For more information, check out this story I wrote about the famed Onion in North Hills, Calif., where Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters held their first Los Angeles acid test.) Of this Knoxville congregation, Time magazine reports:
The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is a community that meets to worship and work together for social change, according to the church’s Web site. Since the 1950’s, the congregation has worked for desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights, according to the Web site. The congregation also has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the ACLU.
Once is too often for a tragedy like this. But crazed gunmen unloading on church crowds and Jewish centers and mosques seem to occur semi-regularly.
*Updated: Jim D. Adkisson, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder.