It should come as no surprise that throughout history, at least here in the northern hemisphere, the time of year we are now entering has been associated with death and dying, with transitions, with the changes that come naturally as part of the cycle of life. The leaves are beginning to change colors and let go, dropping from the glorious trees for which they have spent the past several months drinking in the sun’s energy. The sun itself is getting lower on the horizon, and offering noticeably less light with each passing day. Animals are making their preparations for the winter, busily burying nuts, migrating, and so on. One very special, very old cat that hangs around outside our house seems to be preparing for what could be her last difficult winter season.
Culturally, we celebrate Halloween, the Day of the Dead, and other death-related holidays. Skeletons and other images profusely populate our public gathering places, seemingly having taken over places like Kroger and Target, even the Post Office.
As many of you know, I have long been an active participant in the Death Positive movement, a loosely knit organization of folks seeking to help Westerners and Americans in particular reclaim a positive relationship with death, integrating it into our finite lives in a healthy and positive way. (The term “Death Positive” is also a pun, pointing to the fact that each of us has an inherited gene that gives us the medical condition of being “death positive.”)
My interest in this aspect of human existence brings many events and opportunities for education and conversation to our Heritage community, particularly at this time of year. You might want to come to church for an informal conversation about death and dying at our Death Café Cincinnati on October 30 (http://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/5199/). You might be interested in viewing (or re-viewing) the outstanding 1971 film Harold and Maude, this month’s offering in our Death Positive Film Series, on October 27. You might want to check out the latest news about the green burial sanctuary we are starting, Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary, at https://www.heritageacresmemorial.org/. You’ll be hearing more about Heritage Acres at church in the next few weeks. And certainly, don’t miss our deeply moving All Souls Sunday worship service, when we lift up and honor those loved ones who have died in the past year, on November 5.
I also want to let you know that in mid-September, I—along with a few other members of the Heritage Church End-of-Life Ministry Team—took an intensive, 30-hour training seminar that ended with our certification as “death midwives.” As such, we are available to offer compassionate, spiritual, holistic care and comfort to those in our congregation, and their loved ones, who are dying. In fact, the church’s End-of-Life Ministry Team, now composed of roughly a dozen profoundly caring individuals with a wide range of skills and training, stands ready to assist families facing life’s final transition before, during and after the death of a loved one. This is just one of the many unique ministries that sets Heritage Church apart from most other Unitarian Universalist—or non-UU—congregations.
It is a blessing and a privilege to serve as your Senior Minister!