Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist: One Year Later

Monday is the one-year anniversary of a dark moment in our state's history--the horrible shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist. Reading last year's post, I can recall the feelings as I opened my inbox and saw the email from a friend in Knoxville bearing the news. The killings, the injuries, and the horror of the survivors made the world focus on a congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee. We got hints early in the aftermath that the attack was motivated in part by the fact that the congregation is accepting of GLBT people and its liberalism.

TEP members across the state were anguished about the attack and we continue to be in awe of the resiliance of the congregation.

The Sunday Knoxville News Sentinel takes a look at the TVUU a year later. We'll give John Bohstedt, who is interviewed in the piece, the last word on the anniversary of the tragedy:

Bohstedt, a retired University of Tennessee history professor, said his church appears to have emerged from the ordeal as a stronger community. But don't talk to Bohstedt about seeking or achieving closure. He doesn't believe in such a thing.

"That's a particularly toxic myth," he said. "You learn how to go on and how to appreciate what you've got ... but it's not at all about closure, because things are never the same."

Bohstedt doesn't have an answer about what should be done with Adkisson.

"I think that a person who could come to that place where he was, shows there is real evil in the world in the shape of human beings.

"I don't think he was mentally ill in any normal sense of the word. I'm not even sure he's redeemable. He had been working on this bad streak for 58 years. He had it pretty well developed."

Bohstedt, however, describes himself as an "incurable optimist" and prefers to focus on how the congregation and other churches came together after the shooting.

"I think we've discovered strength we didn't know we had," he said. "We have found out how much our bonds of supporting each other in love mean. You know how crucial that is, to keep our life going both individually and as a community."

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