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By Tim Murphy
Religion News Service

Unitarian Univeralists in Knoxville, Tenn., reopened their doors on Sunday (Aug. 3), just one week after a gunman opened fire during a production of a church musical and left two people dead.
“This sanctuary, which has been defiled by violence, we rededicate to peace. This holy place, which has been desecrated by an act of hatred, we reconsecrate for love,” the Rev. Chris Buice told an overflow crowd at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
Joined by two former ministers, Buice praised the congregation’s commitment to progressive social justice in the face of violence.
“(The gunman) came into this space with a desire to do an act of hatred. But he has unleashed unspeakable acts of love,” Buice said.
According to Knoxville police, Jim D. Adkisson, 58, opened fire during a July 27 performance of the musical, “Annie,” killing two and wounding seven. In a letter found in Adkisson’s car, the shooter blamed the church’s liberal teachings for his current unemployment.
Adkisson had no formal ties to the church, although The Associated Press reported that his ex-wife had been a former member.
“Last Sunday, a man walked into this sanctuary with the intention of inflicting terror. And he inspired quick and decisive acts of courage,” Buice said. “Reports tell us that he thought that liberals were soft on terror. He had a rude discovery.”
The FBI and Knoxville Police Department are currently investigating to determine whether Adkisson, who is currently in police custody, can be charged with hate crimes. The attack is the first of its kind on a Unitarian church.
“You could have returned the hatred that was directed at your community,” wrote the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association, in a letter to the congregation. “But instead you greeted hatred with love, and you created meaning from an unspeakably destructive act.”
The service ended with a chorus of “Tomorrow,” the popular song from the production being staged at the time of the shooting. The song has become a rallying cry for the congregation since the shooting, and was performed at a candlelight vigil last Monday.
“We are untied as a community, saying `the sun will come out tomorrow,'” Buice said.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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