The faces of hell

New essay: The Faces of Hell, published by The Other Journal: an Intersection of Theology and Culture.

On July 28, 2008, I received a call that changed everything. In reality, it was multiple calls and text messages urgently alerting me to the news that there had been a shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sign at TVUUC with balloons, flowers, and notes after July 28, 2008 shooting
Photo by Karen Krogh

As District Executive of the Southeast District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), I immediately hopped on a plane and went there to assist in whatever way I could. With the help of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, a number of local agencies, and the generous donations of hundreds of Unitarian Universalists, congregations, and others, the members of the congregation received immediate and ongoing trauma support to help them heal from this senseless act of violence.

The Reverend William Sinkford, then president of the UUA, was so inspired by the courage and love he witnessed by the members of the TVUUC congregation that, with the help of the Reverend Meg Riley, he launched the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign. This campaign has gone on to inspire thousands of people to live our faith through love into the world.

But this tragedy also caused me, and I’m sure others who were affected by this horrific act of violence, to examine another of one of the most fundamental religious questions: the nature of hell. Recently, The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture, a publication of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, published an essay I wrote called The Faces of Hell that explores this question as it relates to the shooting at TVUUC. I hope you’ll read it and share your thoughts and reflections.

TVUUC has come a long way since that tragic day in 2008. Through their care of each other, their openness to care from others, and their boundless love of all people, they have done much healing over the past four years. However, not a day goes by in which I don’t send this congregation the continued healing energy of the universe. Please offer them your thoughts and prayers also.

For more about the shooting and the response, please visit Unitarian Universalists Respond to Tragedy in Knoxville.