When you're a minister, you respond when there are crises and emergencies in your congregation, whether you're on vacation or not. TVUUC's minister, my colleague the Rev. Chris Buice, was on vacation last Sunday and came rushing home to be with his congregation when a hate-filled, angry man opened fire in the sanctuary during worship. It's what ministers do.
July is the month I normally consider my time to take a break from talking about church, though I knew that this summer might require some involvement because of the new building going up. I did not anticipate needing to deal with an inquiry from a sex offender, a belated complaint about the "Torture is a Moral Issue" banner which was up on the church site in June and much of July, and the Knoxville tragedy which affects all Unitarian Universalists everywhere because we are now aware that for some disturbed people out there, we are in the crosshairs of whatever gun they may be carrying.
It helped a lot yesterday when the Favorite Son called as I was gnawing on my tuna sandwich and feeling it hit with a thud in my overstressed stomach. We talked about what a wake-up call it is to know that there are people who hate liberal thinkers so much that they will murder them wholesale until the cops arrive and who hope for suicide-by-cop. And we talked about how odd it is to be murdered because we care about human rights, how odd it is to be so condemned by some groups because we push for justice and compassion even for murderers, and how very sad it is that if this clearly deranged man had used non-violent means to express his despair, the very people he hates would have offered caring and support and help.
As we talked, the FS offered some thoughts about security measures, and he said, in effect, that he would be most distressed if ever we were reduced to using screening devices or security guards or arming congregants because it would be so much a capitulation to the forces of violence. Better we should face our dissenters with the innocence of love, rather than an expectation of evil. (He is currently a security guard at Target while completing his education, so he knows a thing or two about security.)
I am so happy that this young man is my son. Over the years, he has gone from being a Sunday School rapscallion to a charismatic rebel to an unconventional and mature thinker who views life pragmatically but lovingly. I think we owe a great deal to the wonderful religious education he got at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, where we lived for many years. The DRE, Lark Matis-Ruffner, and his teachers refused to give up on him despite his scampy ways. My memories of those days run the gamut from despair to jubilation and amazement. I could tell you stories! But I won't---it's one of the agreements we have.
Anyhow, my so-called vacation is about over. I don't know how the lack of a real break will affect the coming year but I do know that it has given me a lot of sermon fodder. In a little while, my worship leader for Aug. 3 will be here to discuss how we will approach this service, in light of the Knoxville tragedy, the other concerns we have addressed this summer, and our new building's opening.