Highlander’s Board and staff are deeply saddened by the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, and our hearts go out to our family, friends and allies there. We hold the families of the deceased, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, particularly in our prayers.

Highlander has a long history of working with TVUUC, an enclave of progressive thought and action in East Tennessee, and two of our staff members and their families – Elandria Williams and Charlie Biggs — are members of the congregation. We deplore this hate-inspired attack, and rededicate ourselves to the work for justice and as allies with TVUUC.

13 Responses

  1. Greetings,

    My heart and hope go out to the families of this traumatic incident. As a member of Kindred, a new southern healing justice collective of healers, I wanted to extend our heartfelt gratitude for letting our communities know about this so that these incidences of violence in our communities do not happen in isolation from our movement building work in this region. In addition, if we can refer these families to any social justice energy and body healers in the area please let us know.

    In light & liberation, Cara
    Project Director
    a southern healing justice collective
    Atlanta, GA

  2. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. What a horror for these children to go though. I know from experience what these children and parents will go though in the years to come. May the strength of a loving G_d be with everyone at this sad time.

    “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must
    be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an
    irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

  3. The attack on this small community of Uniterians gathered in common spirit in their space that has been opened to so many reminds me that to stand for justice, to welcome those coming in peace with respect and support, continues to be dangerous work in the United States of America. Let us go on anyway…

    Bernice Johnson Reagon

  4. Dear Highlander Board Members and Staff,

    I was also deeply saddened when I saw the news of the vicious shooting attack. I am glad to see your response and I would wholeheartedly agree that one of the best responses is a re-dedication to working toward social and economic justice.

    Oakland, CA

  5. “They can kill the dreamers but they can’t kill the dream.” This was the paraphrase of a response to the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But it surely applies to the victims of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.

    It is a criminal act and my heart goes out to the families of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger. They were killed doing good, decent things for people oppressed by the existing order. They are truly the nobility of our people. They won’t be soon forgotten.

  6. With sincere condolences …
    and with appreciation for the dedicated, enlightened work by those who died and those who mourn them …
    I offer my prayers and solidarity in love.

  7. As long time supporters of Highlander, we appreciate Highlander’s statement of support for the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Like everyone else we have been shocked and horrified by the senseless violence that occurred last Sunday. I’m glad to say that our ministers of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont quickly organized a beautiful prayer service on Monday evening to honor the victims and the entire congregation of TVUUC. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Tennessee.

  8. Dear Fellow Seekers of Truth and Justice,
    As a long-time observer –and sometime financial supporter — of Highlander and its philosophy, and as a member of a socially active, and open and affirming UCC congregation in the St. Louis, Missouri area, I grieve with you. It’s hard to find any words to express solidarity and concern. As one who works with energy, and a healer, I send you focused universal healing energy.
    Holding all in the the Light, Paul Mack

  9. I was proud, but not surprised, to learn that my colleague in history graduate school, John Bohstedt, played a brave and effective central role in keeping this tragic situation from being much worse. John has played an active role in creating and sustaining this admirable congregation, and he has been a friend of Highlander over the years. He and his fellow parishioners are in my thoughts this week. Peter Wood

  10. Friends,

    Lisa and I have thought about little else all week. We are so saddened by this tragedy. Sunday I will lead a memorial service at the Madison County (Ky.) UU Fellowship to remember our kindred at TVUUC.

    You all are in our thoughts.

    Chad and Lisa Berry

  11. I am very disturbed by the shooting at the Unitarian Church. In the past I’ve visited the church and found it to be warm and welcoming. It is my hope that the members find a way to feel safe and comfortable again in this home of theirs.

  12. We appreciate your caring response to this shocking event, for at least 2 related reasons:
    (1) we visited the Highlander Center last April/May with my sister Judy and her husband Rev. Emeritus Gordon Gibson, who had guided the Unitarian Universalist Southern Civil Rights Tour that I attended last March/April, where one of our Meadville Lombard Theological School students (Michael Leuchtenberger) presented a spiritually moving paper on Highlander Folk School history and did the Guy Carawan gig on our bus (leading us in singing, and teaching us the songs we didn’t know yet…) — the Gibsons are members of TVUUC and were in attendance at the shooting, but fortunately experienced only emotional injuries, not physical ones; and
    (2) our entire UU denomination is joining in the healing process, and many UU churches (our Shoreline UUC in the Seattle WA area in particular) are devoting our Worship Services tomorrow to this effort, and our national President Bill Sinkford and the Thomas Jefferson District Director Annette Marquis have come to Knoxville to help (Annette was on out SCRTour in (1) above…) — plus many other denominations are making this an “interdenominational” effort, including those of Jewish and Muslim faiths.

    Perhaps, however hideous this attack was, and whatever damage it may have done to the souls of the children in attendance, this community response may be one of the most beneficial events in the recent history of this nation, and Highlander’s contribution is typical of your mission over the years. Thank you so much!

    We are pleased to be recipients of your E-mail Updates in general, but this one is the best yet!!

    Bob Moore

  13. Thank you so much for the caring words, Highlander folk.
    Guy & Candie have sung to us at TVUUC countless times – they are great witnesses to us to keep in our horizons the struggles of working people.
    It’s true that TVUUC and Highlander go back a long way, and that we are so proud and fortunate to have Elandria & Charlie in our Church. Lisa and Chad were outlying members of our Church family when they were at Maryville, so it’s nice to hear from them — they would be proud of the Blount County UU church now taking flight from our “mother ship,” as they describe it.
    Judy & Gordon’s civil-rights tour is one I hope to take.
    May we all just keep working and singing and marching and organizing for justice!

    — John Bohstedt