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Distinguished Lecture in Religious Studies: "A Black Church Burned: Sanctuary, Loss, and Place-Making in Knoxville"

On June 22, 2015, the College-Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church (CHSDAC) was burned. Someone left bales of hay in front of the church and set them ablaze. A side door and surrounding wing of the church were burned. The church van was also set on fire. The local police classified the burning as an act of vandalism, and the FBI investigated the arson in relation to a number of Black church fires that occurred in the summer of 2015. No suspect was ever apprehended.  But the story does not simply end there.  How do congregants and members understand what happened? Informed by local research conducted between 2016 and 2022, I explore how local explanations for the church fire move past the search for a single assailant and instead foreground processes of loss and place-making.  These include interpretations grounded in discussions of urban renewal, gentrification, and perspectives on the end-times.  Also pertinent are discussions of the arson in terms of belonging and hallows—local sacred spaces re/made through praise and worship, rituals of remembrance, and sustained co/habitation. 

Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 5:30pm to 7:00pm

John C Hodges Library, 101
1015 Volunteer Blvd, Knoxville TN