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 Leaders,

I grew up Unitarian Universalist, and the only adults I knew in my church were staunch Humanists--most of them, it seemed to my young eyes, heroes of the Civil Rights movement, and deeply ethical people. And yet, for some reason, in this crucible, I grew up to be a Christian Unitarian Universalist. When people ask me why, or wonder how on earth that could have happened, I often mention the Book of Psalms. The Psalms are 150 collected prayers or songs in the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament. They range from expressions of desolation and despair to those of unfettered praise. And, I have to tell you, they stir my heart. They make me cry. As some people might say, they "put me in my feels."

There's a part of me that doesn't want to explain it. Sometimes, to deconstruct the experience of art is to distance oneself from the experience. But, after years of reflection, I know my experience has something to do with the scope of the intent. These are not words of praise or lament aimed at some office worker. They're not words meant to critique the organization of society. No. These are words offered up from the heart of a person, or a community, to the breadth and the height of all of creation. These are words offered up to the infinite and the eternal. And the skeptical among us might sniff and say, "Well, that's just make believe." To which I'd say, "Yes." When we address the universe, some element of imagination will be required. When we engage that which is beyond the ken of our understanding, we will necessarily adopt a trans-rational stance.

And so, for me, the Psalms are an invitation to connect my own heart, my own life, to all of creation. Most movingly, in praise. I don't know your life circumstance, you who reads these words, but I do know that, most likely, you are breathing right now. If you are reading, I can imagine that someone taught you to read--or that you found yourself in an enriched environment in which it was possible to learn to read. I don't know the valleys and low places that your life has been, but I do know that your story isn't over, that you haven't given up--simply because you are here, reading this. And I'm glad and I'm grateful. In fact, in my language of the heart, I thank God for you. I thank God for this day. I thank God for this precious, passing moment. And maybe that kind of language--with the word "God"--doesn't fit for you. Maybe ancient words like the Psalms don't move your heart, as they do mine. And that's fine. Different strokes for different folks. But I do want to ask: how do you praise all of life? How do you connect your own heart, your own life, to the gift of life you've been given? How do you address the universe with awe and thanksgiving?

Maybe this month, as we explore giving praise, it could be a time to experiment with that, or to strengthen that practice. See what stirs in you when you try it--maybe frustration at first, or impatience, or embarrassment. And then, maybe, something else. Good luck.

Faithfully,

Jake

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