Louisville Unitarians pray for Knoxville shooting victims

By Mark Schnyder - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The impact of Sunday's deadly shooting at a Tennessee Unitarian church is being felt in Kentuckiana. As people in Knoxville gathered for a memorial service Monday night, three Louisville congregations held candlelight vigils as well. WAVE 3's Mark Schnyder was at one of them.

The Unitarian Churches are accepting of everyone, includes gays and transgender folks. That liberal view turned a hate-monger into a murderer.

One reverend's message Monday night was for church members not to be afraid to be who they are.

Knoxville is a good four hours from Louisville, but that East Tennessee city feels a lot closer than that.

"Unitarians, there aren't a whole lot of us in this country and when something happens to one it happens to all of us," says Debbie Horvay, a long-time member of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church off Brownsboro Road

Overwhelming grief is how Horvay describes it. Sunday morning in Knoxville, a man with a grudge against the church and its liberal social policies took out his anger by firing his shotgun. He hit nine people, killing two, before being tackled by church members during a children's performance of Annie. The gunman hid his shotgun in a guitar case until he was ready to use it.

"There haven't been other incidents like this," says Horvay. "There's been vandalism here and there but never anything like this and so I think it's just one very sick man."

Rev. Esther Hurlburt told congregants in east Louisville their church is a safe place and called on them to share their pain, their anger and their tears.

"At first you cry, then let your heart break open.  You examine that grief and know it's a natural god given human response to such a tragedy and you sit with it," says Rev. Hurlburt.

It's the sort of tragedy that will force Thomas Jefferson Unitarian to soon look beyond the grief and take a harder look at security. The church board president, Andrea Carnahan, says that will be discussed at the next meeting.

"We want our members to feel safe and secure and cared for and at the same time this is a place of worship, it's not a police state," said Carnahan.

Monday's vigils in Louisville coincided with the vigil in Knoxville and at Unitarian churches across the country to show solidarity.