Leader Letter

Subscribing congregations should share this letter with congregational leaders.  Being oriented to the month’s theme, and equipped to help others in the congregation get aligned with it, builds the whole congregation’s engagement with the theme.  Which, of course, means unity and energy for the community.

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Dear Friends,

When I was about eight years old, my father took me to see a Tennessee Volunteers football game, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. I don't remember who the Vols were playing, only that they won in exciting fashion.  The crowd was jubilant.  As we left the stadium, outside on the sidewalk, a woman was crowing out the Mac Davis country song, "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble!" And my dad and I laughed so hard, we doubled over. That particular song is not an expression of humility, at all, of course.  It's a song of boasting pride.  The woman had meant to be funny by playing up her boasting, as she sang.  It was a way to celebrate an unlikely win.  East Tennessee is in the heart of Appalachia, so winning, generally, is seen as unlikely or rare. Boasting about greatness is usually done with some irony here, since the given condition is usually down on your luck.  

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale of class, President George H.W. Bush--the first President Bush--is known for removing the personal pronoun from his sentences.  Instead of saying, "I went to play golf," he says, "Went to play golf."  And apparently this affect is a holdover from the humility his own mother endeavored to teach him when he was young.

How do we understand humility in others?  When we imagine a joyous Appalachian woman boasting in a song over a rare victory, do we see her as proud?  When a blue-blood President is self-effacing, do we see him as truly humble?  Is humility only a personal virtue, or is there something about status or condition or group that accents it somehow?  And why bother with humility, anyhow?  What good does it do?  What help does it lend?

We live in an age where anxiety and outrage have dampened the appeal of humility.  It's hard to cede ground or space when we're locked in a battle to the death.  So, what place does humility have, especially now, in our times?

This month, our theme is humility.  It's more complex than merely being shy or self-deprecating.  It moves and works among us, and within us, in ways that are hard to pin down.  So, let's join the conversation.  Let's wonder together.

Faithfully,

Jake

Rev. Jake Morrill
Lead Minister ORUUC
Executive Director UUCF
Launchpad Partner