Island vigil honors victims of Tennessee church shooting

With their fingers touching and shoulders pressed, about 60 people bowed their heads in downtown Winslow to affirm that the violence that tore through a Tennessee church can be overcome, one pair of joined hands at time.

“Feeling the touch of another person who is not going to hurt you and who is going to care for you, we pray that the compassion here will spread into the world,” said Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church co-minister Barbara ten Hove at the City Hall plaza Tuesday evening. “It’s a baby step, but it is important.”

Members of the island church organized the vigil as an expression of sympathy for the victims of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting in Knoxville, Tenn.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire in the church during a youth performance and killed two people, including a man who witnesses say shielded others from a shotgun blast.

Six adults were also injured but no children were harmed, according to reports. The gunman was tackled by congregants and eventually taken into police custody.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder. In a note left in his vehicle, the out-of-work trucker said he attacked the church because “he hated the liberal movement.”

The Unitarian church, which advocates social change, has worked for desegregation, political refugees, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights.

“How strange and sad that our values, such as belief in the worth and dignity of all people and the interdependence of all life, could make someone so angry that he wanted to kill to prove a point,” said Cedar’s co-minister Jaco ten Hove.

The Hoves recently moved to the island and were scheduled to make their first sermon at Cedars late next month. The shootings in Tennessee brought them to the forefront of their new congregation earlier than expected.

“We didn’t think we’d be before you tonight,” Barbara ten Hove said. “It is a sad privilege to be here.”

Several members of other faiths were present at the vigil. In a symbolic act of unity, the nearby Eagle Harbor Congregational Church rang its bell as people gathered to listen to the Hoves’ first sermon.

Buddhist monk Senji Kanaeda, who heads the island’s Nipponzan Myohiji temple, said he and fellow monk Gilberto Perez joined the vigil to offer condolences and pray for the victims.

“This reminds me of Columbine,” Kanaeda said, noting the 1999 school shootings in Colorado. “It reminds me that America is a gun society.”

Jaco ten Hove also evoked the memory of Columbine. He and his wife lived near the school when the shootings occurred.

“We are painfully aware that violence can unfold anywhere, particularly in this country, where guns are plentiful and easily accessible,” he said.

Even more dangerous is the hatred that pulled the trigger, he said.

“We wonder what taught him to hate a religion that for 400 years has preached love, acceptance and hope,” he said. “Sadly, there are those in our culture who do teach hate, even if indirectly.”

Hove urged his congregation to meet hate with love, even for those that open fire in churches.

“We hold space in our hearts for the sad and angry fellow whose burning hatred pushed him toward this evil act,” he said.

(See Kitsap Sun photographer Lenna Himmelstein’s photos of the vigil here)

  • The Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church in Bremerton will hold a vigil and prayer service tomorrow at 4:30 to honor the victims of a recent shootings at a Unitarian church in Tennessee. The church is located at 4418 Perry Ave. Call (360) 377-4724 for more information.

One thought on “Island vigil honors victims of Tennessee church shooting

  1. People should not have to be always on the alert to prevent random/rare acts of violence. But it appears violence can strike even in a church. The previous posts about able-bodied men and women being able to step into danger and protect is a very valid point. If we practice no guns in schools/churches, the only ones with guns in schools and churches will be those intent on slaying the lambs.

    As to the evil man who did this, how deranged. If one does not like the direction your church is going, one can vote with his feet — change churches. Or if a church doesn’t like new liberal policies of the mother church, the churches can cede from that organization. There is a major schism in the Anglican Church over the issues that this man used violence. The entire organization was affiliating itself with a branch of the Churh out of South Africa that was more conservative than the wing they belong to. Violence is not the way to stop liberalism. Words and action are what should be used and not murder.

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