sorrow, survivor’s guilt, and censored rants

Saturday evening I chatted on the phone with the woman who had designed and then made all the costumes for our childrens’ musical at church. Today I saw her crying in the pews after her husband, also fighting back tears, announced the terrible news from Knoxville from the pulpit. The woman who had had the exact same job at Tennessee Valley UU Church is now a widow, Greg McKendry was her husband.

Our emotions are in turmoil. Our thoughts are with the victims, and at the same time something not unlike survivor’s guilt is creeping up. It could have been us. They were us. We are them. Here in the Denver area, we still sometimes see bleached stickers: Columbine is everywhere.

A footnote on the horrible events: I was reading the comments by viewers of the local station. Apparently, several posts had been marked as abusive and were taken off, leaving the reader to wonder what was said. Reactions from other readers tell me they were (probably) of two kinds: 1) an angry atheist who made assumptions and generalizations about a dogmatically motivated attack by a fanatic Christian; 2) someone who derided UUs, knocked the performance of an ‘un-Christian’ musical, and said something to the effect of ‘serves them right’, or “God’s wrath”.

Part of me wishes those deleted posts were still there. Maybe I’m naive and we can’t really learn anything from them, but this is the country where “free speech” is a universal idea, and yet, we’re timid and censorious in many situations.

My guess is that uncivilized ranters often say things that are an undercurrent in certain groups of society, expressing prejudice, irrational fears, rumors and hate speech that are prevalent but not on the surface.

The other part of me hopes we can minimize the pain for the victims who have already suffered too much. 

But what also surfaced in the reader statements was that some people either couldn’t place UU or had some odd ideas about it. In these coming days we may be asked about our faith, be ready.

Of course, this may turn out to be just a sad case of untreated mental illness, a specter that is haunting the United States whose voters so far have been denied inclusive healthcare available to most other industrial nations. We may know more soon. Let’s hope we don’t have reason to be fearful that UUs are now an identified target.

Finally, if you are sending letters to Tennessee don’t forget that several visiting members of the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church were also injured and traumatized (one, Linda Kraeger, is among the dead).


2 Responses to sorrow, survivor’s guilt, and censored rants

  1. Nathan says:

    Please hold Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh, Misitster of Westside UU Church in your thoughts and prayers as well. Rev. Mitra was just finishing her first year as a full-time minister when, a day before having to leave for GA, she had to conduct her first funeral service here. She just returned from vacation Friday or Saturday. She spent a good part of Sunday at TVUUC and at the hospital before conducting a service at Westside last evening.

    Since the sanctuary at TVUUC was still sealed by police, many of their members came to Westside for the service. They told us that a number of the children performing in the musical that morning were non-UUs and that their families were present–their first visit to a UU church.

  2. juuggernaut says:

    I decided to remove the contact information for the two churches after our minister, Peter Morales, sent out this notice to the congregation. I highly recommend visiting the link about Coping with disaster.

    “Dear Friends,

    By now most of you have probably seen news accounts of the shootings at 
our sister congregation in Knoxville, Tenn. A man came into the church 
during the Sunday morning service and shot a number of people before he 
was subdued. At latest report Sunday evening, two people have died and 
there are still a few people in critical condition. 

    Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Knoxville. While we all 
want to reach out to them, right now we should refrain from attempting 
contact with the church. It will simply complicate what is already a 
very difficult time. The UUA has a team of ministers trained to help 
respond to traumatic events. If there are needs that we can help fill, a 
request will come out.


Some of us have or know children who have heard the news and will have 
questions. The best thing to do is to be reassuring while being 
straightforward. It is all right for our children to know that an event 
like this saddens us deeply and even that some of us feel great anger 
and frustration at the violence in our society. Here is a link to a 
website with excellent advice for parents (and other adults) helping 
children deal with anxiety after a 


*Tuesday evening service*

    We will hold a simple service Tuesday evening at 7:00. It will be a time 
to be together with our grief. Together we can be strong. Together we 
can support one another. We will have music, readings and reflection. 
Details of the service are just beginning to be worked out. We will send 
out more information soon.

    On a personal note, I am filled with a mixture of grief and anger. I 
know many of you share these emotions. The level of violence in our 
culture is something that should trouble all of us. The violence in our 
society is madness and is an indicator of lives that are in deep disarray.


With deep sadness,

    Peter Morales
Senior Minister

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