Love is the Spirit of this Campaign
Rev. Chris Buice is a minister at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
As the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church marks the anniversary of the shooting in our sanctuary on July 27, 2008, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway as they mourn losses on an unimaginable scale.
In Knoxville, we lost two lives — Greg McKendry, a big, burly man with a heart of gold; and Westside congregation member Linda Kraeger, a scholar with a dry wit and a mind on fire. Thanks to the actions of brave members in the pews, we did not lose a single child. Our prayers are with the people of Norway who are suffering the heartbreaking loss of the young.
There is no comparing the scale of our losses. Even so, the parallels are unsettling. A man’s anger at extremists turned him into an extremist. In a fury to prevent terrorism he became a terrorist himself. This is what hatred can do to any of us. Hatred can blind us so that we do not see the humanity of others and the sacredness of their children. We are perpetually in danger of becoming like those we hate.
It is a paradox that good can come from evil. Acts of hatred can inspire an outpouring of love. Our congregation and the Westside congregation are empowered by the many people across the country who have become part of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign in the aftermath of our tragedy. Together we are re-envisioning the politics of our time.
In our statement of principles and purposes we affirm that we are inspired by the “words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.” This campaign invites us to live lives grounded in that spirit.
In East Tennessee, we carried our Standing on the Side of Love banner in the Martin Luther King parade and in a community effort to offer a positive alternative to neo-Nazi rally. We marked the national Standing on the Side of Love day with a community interfaith forum to reclaim civil discourse on polarizing issues. With our neighbors in the Oak Ridge UU Church we voiced our opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill seeking to ban open discussion in our schools. We hosted a teen-led rally where the message was “It’s Okay to Say Gay.” We have been inspired by the stories we hear around the country of congregations making a difference in their communities which can have ripple effects around the world.
On July 27, 2008, our congregation was everyone’s congregation. The trauma we experienced was felt throughout our denomination. We received cards, letters, paper cranes, messages of love and support from around the world. Our congregation has found healing in this love and reaffirmed our commitment to act in the world in ways that are congruent with this outpouring of compassion. “Love is the spirit of this church” read the banner put up in our front lawn by two members in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Love continues to be the spirit of our congregation and the spirit of this campaign which is touching lives around our country and the world.
It is new day, July 27, 2011, filled with new possibilities. So I will end by saying to you words I share with my congregation every Sunday, words adapted from a familiar hymn: “Prophetic church the world awaits your liberating ministry, go forward in the power of love, proclaim the truth that makes us free.”