The Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association gathers just ahead of the annual UU General Assembly, this year in Lousville. This morning UUMA worship featured, as is the tradition, two speakers, one who has served twenty-five years and the other fifty years.
The fifty year homilist this year was Robert Senghas.
Bob has been a Zen practitioner for something more than a quarter of a century. Among many other things along the way, including serving as acting president of the denomination for a few months between the death of a president and the Board appointing another to fill out the term, he was also instrumental in the founding of the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship.
Bob (together with his beloved late wife Dorrie) has been a mentor for many of us who identify as UU Buddhists. Me, included.
No doubt, me included.
His homily began with autobiographical details, while a standard formula for this event, it had deeply moving moments. His was the generation that answered the call to Selma. He described having an evening having a beer with an Episcopal priest colleague, who a few days later would die when he threw himself between a woman and a man who fired a shotgun at the demonstrators.
For many the tears of gratitude began there…
But it was when Bob turned to describing his own path of emptying, and his exhortation to the colleagues to do the same, that I found tears running down my cheek. At a time in our Association’s history where many are calling people to spiritual disciplines, but few have a clue what they actually are, Bob is a clear and profound voice pointing the way.
As he walked past us during the recessional hymn, most of the Buddhists among us, and a few others, gasshoed and bowed.
As we were standing and singing a hymn, most wouldn’t have noticed, I suspect.
And I suspect that’s how he would prefer it to be…
(The video below, while the images are of the great Hindu sage Ramana Maharishi, the words are from the Zen tradition and are an expression of Bob’s spirituality, as well, of course, of the great invitation.)