“Soul in the Pulpit”

Addressing a graduating class of Unitarian ministers-to-be, Ralph Waldo Emerson told them that the medicine the waning church of their day needed was first soul, second soul, and thirdly… Soul! If ever there was a UU Gospel that I tried to live as a young minister, it was that. I soon realized, though, that my soul had other ideas about how it wanted to be shared in this lifetime. Two and a half years ago it asked me to let go of everything I was sure I was meant to be doing, including ministry, and to listen anew.

In a dominant culture which assigns value by what we do and/or produce, and in a time in which the house we live in (be it planet or country, etc.) feels as if it is on fire, stepping away from leadership and action and into a liminal space of listening felt, and still feels, vulnerable. Such vulnerability is, of course, one of the essential ingredients of soul work, but that doesn’t make it feel less so. Yet nothing has taught me more about unconditional love or made more space for growth in my life as this yes to soul.

This Sunday I’ll share some of my story and my learnings on this path. I’m imagining, as I do, that you, too, as individuals and/or as a community, are in conversation in some way with the call to let go of pressing plans and actions and listen to soul more deeply. Together perhaps we can ask if we love ourselves enough to actually give soul the “pulpit.”


David Ruffin is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, artist and educator who came to Vermont for a sabbatical time of renewal, exploration and discernment two years ago and… hasn’t been able to leave since. Early in his ministry he founded the alternative spiritual community, The Sanctuary Boston, a home for young adults and others who often don’t feel at home in more traditional church environments. He also then served for two and a half years as the Assistant Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK. Prior to ministry, David worked as an actor and singer based in New York City and still takes great joy in making music and art. Since coming to Vermont, David has dived into the worlds of sustainable agriculture, nature connection and outdoor education, including working with the Metta Earth Institute in Lincoln, VT and Crows Path’s Field School here in Burlington on the beautiful land of Rock Point.