Five days before the month starts, 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.


"Embodiment" LEADER LETTER

Dear Friends,

My grandfather died in a room he shared with an obstreperous old coot who wouldn't turn off the TV.  It was clear that, on our side of the heavy curtain, something beautiful and sacred was happening.  My grandfather, who lived over nine decades of gentle compassion, was dying. But the old coot didn't care, and "West Wing" was on, and it was on up loud.  So, we sat vigil there, by my grandfather's bedside.  My aunt had come in to Tennessee, and even though she always has something funny to say, she was quiet.  "West Wing" kept blaring.  And then, as my grandfather's breath slowed, with longer gaps in between, from the TV beyond the curtain in the room came the sound of "Ave Maria."  It was part of the episode--I've looked it up, Episode 5, Season 1.  But, in a room that had seemed the jarring dissonance between the sacred and the profane, between the holy and the ordinary, everything became one.  High and low met.  The discontinuity of death was held in the continuity--and even absurdity--of life.  And the music was beautiful, as my grandfather took his last breaths.

This month, our theme is "Emodiment."  For all our high-falutin ideas about spirituality, all our inclination to transcend the body to some ethereal plane, it is in our bodies where we carry out our whole lives.  Our bodies that breathe, that move, that tremble, that love, that touch, that clench in anger, that release in tears.  Our bodies that grow, and grow older, and then, eventually, die.

To some degree or another, Unitarians have historically looked askance at the notion of the incarnation--the idea that Jesus was God made flesh.  We have often, in recent centuries, preferred to view him as a teacher, at best filled with the Spirit, but not a manifestation of it.  And yet, there is something of late I've found meaningful in the incarnation, Unitarian though I am.  The idea that the Holy is not elsewhere, out of reach, but is here, among us, in our lives, in our bodies.

I hope this month allows you to reflect in new ways on your own body, and how it is to have a body.  I hope some new awareness and appreciation rises up in you, that helps you find the holy not from afar, but up close, at home, in your body.  And that, as you seek to enact love, which is holy, you do it not only with words, but also in gestures, and physical acts of tenderness and caring, which is one way the body becomes a channel of the holy.

As my grandfather lay dying, as I watched his sweet body, it seemed too plain, too unadorned--the whole event.  Until I was reminded that the holy, when it arrives, doesn't come as an alien force, but as a reminder that it has always been here, among us, in those moments of ordinary, profound love.


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