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A heart-wrenching Sunday in our city

July 27, 2008

The news reverberated through Knoxville’s places of worship this morning and staggered everyone who heard.

A gunman entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday and opened fire during a children’s play. One man who stepped in front of the gunman is confirmed dead and seven others were injured. The news came¬†Sunday evening that a second victim had died.

The entire religious community of Knox County, from its churches to its synagogues to its temples, is stunned by what happened.

As of now, we know that a Powell man, identified by authorities as Jim D. Adkisson, 58, has been taken into custody. The why of what happened will be determined by local police and federal agents, in case the shooting was the result of a federal hate crime.

I learned of the shooting after leaving my own place of worship this morning, Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, when my daughter called me.

The details have been developing throughout the afternoon and have been well chronicled by the local media, including the News Sentinel: 

There are employees of the paper who are members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and this story must be heartbreakingly difficult for the paper to report.

The three-minute response time by the Knoxvillle Police Department – and how quickly the gunman was in custody – is to be lauded. Also, the FBI has done an outstanding job in helping to investigate the case.

The Tyree family extends its deepest sympathy to all the victims and their families and the entire congregation of the church.

What started as a beautiful Sunday in summer was shattered by one gunman and shook the religious community in this city to its core.

We will learn of why later. For now we pray for those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by an act that defies belief and we rely on faith to sustain us.