Minister’s Column July 2020

Dear Ones:

We come to the end of the 2019-2020 congregational year. Our congregational life now slows down for a few months. I’m looking forward to time off for vacation (“staycation”) and study leave. I desperately need some time off at this point. And while using the world “desperately” in that last sentence, in a regular year, might seem overly dramatic, I trust you all understand that I— and all our UUS:E staff—desperately need some time off this summer. I am tired after these last three-and-a-half months of pandemic church. I am feeling raw, drained, worn out, worn down, not at my best self—not even close. Many of you feel these things too.

How could it be otherwise? We’re making our way through a global pandemic that will likely result in more than 200,000 American deaths—many that could have been prevented had we had competent national leadership. We’re making our way through the pandemic-related hyper-exposure of racial and class inequities in our nation, and vowing not to return to that old normal. And we are making our way through a national Black Lives Matter uprising in response to police violence, figuring out our place in it, figuring out how to work for substantive change. As liberal and progressive people of faith, we face these difficult and painful realities. They draw our attention, and we feel called to address them, called to engage, to struggle, to fight. This call is inherent in our seven UU principles. It is a central part of the mission of our UU faith. And of course, in order to pursue our mission, in order to uphold our principles, we also have to run the day-to-day operations of our congregation, manage the finances, maintain the building, educate our children, tune our pianos. And since March we’ve had the added challenge of working with new technologies, dealing with weak Wi-Fi signals, figuring out how to teach classes online, how to organize food drives, how to respond to a local police shooting, how to keep in touch with each other. So, yes I am feeling tired, raw, worn down, worn out, etc. How could it be otherwise?

But I also feel pride. I’m proud of our UUS:E staff for responding with grace to the realities of the pandemic. None of our staff has been perfect, but what they’ve given us is better than perfection. They’ve given us devotion, patience, heart, creativity, and love. I am so proud of them, and grateful too.

I’m also proud of our lay-leaders, our Policy Board and Program Council members, who have kept us moving along as a congregation under very difficult and quite novel circumstances. No, they have not been perfect either. But like our staff, they’ve given us better than perfection. They’ve given us commitment, flexibility, optimism, and love. They’ve made hard decisions. I’m proud of all of you for rolling with us through these frightening, unnerving, technologically challenging and isolating times. The trust you have put in the UUS:E staff and lay-leaders have been critical. The support you’ve shown us has made all the difference.

And, last but not least, I’m proud of myself. It’s been a rocky ride. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve not been my best self. But I look back now on everything that’s happened, including an 11-day sun-up to sun-down fast to urge the legislature back into session, and I feel pretty darn good about it. Raw, worn-down, worn-out, not my best self—yes. But I am beaming we pride too. Please know that about your minister.

Have a great summer friends! I will definitely “see” you along the way; and I look forward to the coming year. It will also be exhausting, but full of opportunity, full of ministry. With love,

—Rev. Josh

Letter to the JI

The following letter to the editor of the Journal Inquirer was published in edited form on June 16, 2020.

Dear Editor:

I was one of the many hundreds marching Saturday, June 6 from the Manchester Town Hall to the Police Station a mile away. At least half of the people gathered were white, and all mostly young and passionate. The most common chant was “Black Lives Matter.”

We marched by the Nazarene Church building at 466 Main Street that has had many uses. It is now part of the MACC (Manchester Area Conference of Churches) complex. It was the first religious home of Manchester’s Unitarian Universalist Society: East, now located at 153 West Vernon Street. The building reminded me that a young girl named Elizabeth Anderson attended the Society’s Sunday school in the 1970s. She has since become one of the world’s most renowned philosophers and is on the faculty of the University of Michigan. Her books have earned her an international reputation as a practical thinker.

The New Yorker a year ago termed Professor Anderson “…a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent.” In one of her books, The Imperative of Integration with copyright in 2010 by Princeton University Press, she explains in great detail how she came to this view. One line stands out:

“It is necessary to block and dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate unjust social inequality, and to realize the promise of a democratic state that is equally responsive and accountable to citizens of all identities.” From page 180 of her book.

After Saturday’s march across Manchester, I am now more convinced that Professor Anderson, this wonderful product of our town, is right. Equality and freedom are mutually dependent. For all of us. Saturday was a refreshing proof of her view. Very truly yours,

Malcolm F. Barlow

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Shared expectations lead to predictability.

61. Coronavirus-19 Mutations

Q: Have any mutations been detected in coronavirus-19?

A: In 1918, when The Great Influenza Pandemic first emerged, those who contracted the disease were mildly affected. During the 1919 second wave when it returned to the US, the fatality rate was very much higher. Scientists learned that the virus had mutated as it spread around the world. This history has caused today’s scientists to critically look for this possibility with coronavirus-19. A recent U.S. study by Scripps Research has identified one mutation that has occurred. This mutation has resulted in an increase in the number of “spikes” on the surface of each single virus particle called a virion. “The number of functional spikes on the virus is 4 or 5 times greater due to this mutation,” said Hyeryun Choe, a senior researcher. The spikes are the structures that allow the virion to enter host cells to reproduce – causing the person to become infected. It appears that this mutation increases the rate of infection – the ease with which the disease can be passed from one person to another. This research may explain why early outbreaks in some parts of the world did not overwhelm hospitals and health systems as much as others, such as Italy and New York. Concern is growing that this mutation is becoming the dominant agent of infection over time. This study has been presented for peer-review publication and advance notice has been given to encourage further research efforts. Other mutation studies are underway around the world and have already found different mutations. Future studies will focus on increased disease severity, mortality, and resistance to antibodies resulting from other mutations.

62. Latest on vaccine development – China

Q: Everyone is focused on having a vaccine. Are other countries at work on this?

A: Concern has recently been expressed over a recent report in the Philippine newspaper The Manila Times that China is widely testing one of its new vaccines. The article stated that the World Health Organization has identified 17 candidate vaccinations of which more than half involve Chinese companies or organizations. The specific vaccine being reported was developed by CanSino Biologies jointly with the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences. It is claimed to have a “good safety profile” and a potential to prevent the disease caused by coronavirus-19. The current third phase testing has been authorized by China’s Central Military Commission for a period of up to one year and may include all members of the extensive Chinese military before testing is concluded. The report stated, “Its use cannot be expanded without further approvals.” The Chinese Military Defense authorities have refused reporters’ questions for clarification. The newspaper also reported, “CanSino added that it cannot guarantee the vaccine will ultimately be commercialized.”

All of this has led to widespread speculation that China’s strategy is to increase its military’s immunity from the disease without allowing the vaccine to be used by other country’s military leaders. It also raises the economic benefit to China if it can sell to others at a monopoly-level expanded price. The military and economic impact on international relations could be tremendous.

63. Fraud alert: scam contact tracing

Q: I received a call telling me I was in contact with someone who tested positive. I was asked to state my Medicare Number to verify that I was the person contacted. Is this appropriate?

A: A recent warning was released jointly by the US Department of Justice the US Health and Human Services and the US Trade Commission. “COVID-19 fraud is rapidly expanding. Operating contact tracing schemes is just one method that criminals use to target unsuspecting patients nationwide, attempting to steal their personal information and commit healthcare fraud,” said HHS Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary Cantrell, Asking for Medicare or Social Security Numbers is not part of legitimate contact tracing.

64. Mitigation processes in North Central Connecticut

Q. Is there a relationship between federal mitigation efforts and local officials?

A. In Connecticut, planning for disaster and emergencies since 2007 has been facilitated by five designated regions. Unlike most other states, Connecticut has no county government, and these five regions were created to be the focus for coordinating local programs and resources under the state-level program. The north-central region is called the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Council (CREPC). This region is made up of 41 towns centered around Hartford. The current pandemic is considered a health emergency, and each level of government (local, regional, state, and federal) have emergency management sections organized to lead specific responses. Thus, within the region in which Manchester, Vernon, Ellington, Hartford, and 37 other towns belong, the health and medical section has identified the local needs for personal protective equipment (PPE).” This includes face masks, gloves and gowns. The needs of hospitals, nursing homes, local health departments, and ambulance providers in the 41 towns and cities were included. This information is then sent to the state level Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS). The state then consolidates the requests for all five regions and gives it to the national-level FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This is an elaborate, but familiar system for those who frequently use it to manage disasters.

In a recent report from the north-central Connecticut emergency planning group (CREPC), the following information was provided: “The regional distribution center in West Hartford was opened on March 25 and operates every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The site continues to receive, stage, and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) as it becomes available.” Trained volunteers and staff members from various towns and organizations organize the logistics of sorting and loading allocated supplies onto vehicles sent by the different local groups requesting these items. “Last week… we distributed 2.7 million pieces of PPE to first responder (fire, police, and EMS) agencies within the 41 communities, 99 long term care and assisted living (nursing home) facilities, and 37 home care and hospice agencies.” (In addition,) to date there have been 1.07 million pieces of PPE distributed to the 14 local public health agencies in (North Central Connecticut) Region 3.”

It is significant to note that many local people, groups, and agencies are effectively at work in Connecticut positively contributing to successful mitigation efforts during this pandemic.

65. “and one more thing…”

Q: What are some of the other coronavirus-19 bits of information people are talking about?

A: First, Crisis Standard of Care: When hospital capacity cannot meet the increasing demands of people in need, the usual standard of care cannot be provided.

  • In Texas, it was reported last week that ambulances bringing in COVID, as well as trauma, cardiac and other patients, are being held in the parking lot outside the emergency department entrance before the crew can bring the patient inside to be seen by a physician. This wait sometimes takes more than an hour, delaying medical care as well as tying up the ambulance from being available for other calls. This, with an increasing number of EMTs and paramedics becoming infected reduces the EMS responder’s ability to respond to other calls and the level of pre-hospital care available to a community.
  • In other jurisdictions, it is reported that ambulance crews responding to patients who are in cardiac arrest are directed not to perform CPR. Instead, they are to make themselves available for other calls. As a result, it will be up to the family or others calling 911 to arrange for the removal of the body.

Secondly, Waiver of liability at colleges: Heidi Li Feildman, a law professor at Georgetown University, published a column in the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the July 2 edition of the local Journal Inquirer). She strongly urges readers to NOT to sign any COVID-19 waiver of liability for students entering college. From the college’s viewpoint, such waivers protect against possibly expensive judgments that could threaten the future of the institution. But Heidi points out that “the technical term for this sort of defense is “primary assumption of risk.” This prevents lawsuits from even being considered when the college fails to conform to CDC and other standards of prevention. This in turn may reduce the vigilance of college officials to strictly enforce appropriate standards. Heidi concludes, “under no circumstances should anyone sign a waiver for harm inflicted by COVID-19 caused by their college’s policies.” It could be said the same advice should apply to waivers requested by any group or agency providing a service to the consumer.

Litha / Midsummer Ritual

Sunflower Field

Join the UUS:E Pagan Study Group

Litha / Midsummer Ritual

Sunday June 21st, 6 PM via Zoom
All are Welcome!

As our lives take on unusual changes, please join us as we adapt and celebrate Litha, or Midsummer, via Zoom.  Our host will begin by casting a circle at her own altar and include in her circle all who wish to join the celebration as the Wheel of the Year turns.  We will have a little history, a ritual to bring us closer, hopefully, some songs as well as perhaps a chance to reflect on how we have grown, along with the young god, in these very different times.

Please plan on having a small snack and drink of some kind on hand so we can all share in cakes and ale.

To join our Zoom Meeting please contact the Unitarian Universalist Society: East office for the Zoom link @ 860-646-5151 or at uuseoffice@uuse.org

Book Discussion: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United Statesby Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Introductory session, Tuesday, June 16th at 7 PM

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ 2014 Beacon Press title, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, was selected as the 2019-2020 Unitarian Universalist Association “Common Read.” As such, the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee is hosting a multi-session book discussion. The introductory session is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 16th at 7:00 PM by Zoom. The expectation is that participants will read the entire book during the summer months, and we will reconvene for more in-depth discussion in the fall. (For login information, contact Rev. Josh Pawelek at minister@uuse.org or watch for announcements in the regular UUS:E eblasts.)

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

Purchase An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States through the UUA’s bookstore, InSpirit at https://www.uuabookstore.org/An-Indigenous-Peoples-History-of-the-United-States-P17699.aspx. If you require financial assistance in making this purchase, please contact Rev. Josh at minister@uuse.org.

Awakening the Heart: Compassion Practices for Challenging Times

Spring flowers

Friday, June 5 at 10:00 AM, with Penny Field

Join Penny Field for a free 1-hour Zoom workshop on how to bring compassion practices into your life. Penny will share some of the teachings of several spiritual and scientific leaders in the field of compassion and the workshop will be highly experiential. Please make sure you have updated to Zoom 5.0 and please pre-register for the workshop. 

Penny Field LPC, NCC is a long time UUSE memeber and a licensed psychotherapist with 30 years of experience creating safe containers to hold the human experience. She trained in Mindful Self-Compassion with Kristen Neff, the founder of the Center for Self-Compassion, and has a decades long personal mindfulness and compassion practice, as well as many years of experience teaching mindfulness and self-compassion practices.

Registration information will be in the regular Wednesday and Saturday UUS:E eblasts. You can also contact Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office for registration information.

Mindfulness and Metta: Staying Grounded in the Midst of Pandemic

Spring Wildflowers

Monday, June 15 at 10:30 AM, with Peter Oliver and Stefanie Toise

Covid-19 has profoundly affected day-to-day life as we know it. Furthermore, we now continue into an uncertain future. In this experiential, one-hour workshop led by Peter Oliver and Stefanie Toise, participants will be introduced to two interrelated concepts and practices that support wellness: Mindfulness and Metta (or loving-kindness) meditation. Mindfulness has been defined as a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experiences not with judgment, but with an attitude of curiosity and affection. Metta is a form of meditation that expresses positive, loving energy and compassion toward self and others. No prior experience with meditation is required. Participants are encouraged to join the workshop from a quiet and peaceful setting. The workshop should last approximately 1 hour.

Peter Oliver is a member of UUSE along with his wife, Laura Dunleavy, and their son, Kyle. A devout student of yoga, meditation, and the healing arts, Peter received foundational training in mindfulness-based stress reduction at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical Center. Peter has also been teaching full time for over 30 years as a university professor.

Dr. Stefanie C.F. Toise, a healthcare consultant for over three decades, has designed and evaluated Integrative Medicine programs both nationally and internationally. Her research and clinical work have been instrumental in establishing Integrative Medicine modalities that result in sustainable health behavioral change. Dr. Toise has been a practicing yoga therapist for over twenty years and practicing meditator for over 45 years. She comes to UUS:E through her connection with the Rev. Drew Moeller.

Registration information will be in the regular Wednesday and Saturday UUS:E eblasts. You can also contact Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office for registration information.

Minister’s Column for May 2020

Hallelujah!

Dear Ones:

I hope and trust you are well. I write these words as we begin approaching the end of April. The COVID-19 infection curve in Connecticut appears to be flattening at this time, though the data isn’t consistent enough for us to know for sure. I am hopeful that by the time you read this we’ll have slightly greater clarity. And I am hopeful that as we enter more fully into May, we’ll start to hear reasonable, scientifically-based predictions of when we might safely open our meeting house to more regular activity.

Having said this, please know I don’t expect we will be able to resume regular activity in the very near future. Some statistical models suggest July as an earliest possible time. Others suggest much, much later. There are still so many unknowns. Even when we finally are able to return, we will likely do it in phases. Only small meetings at first, always with social distancing. Safety will be our highest priority. Can we return safely? What is our definition of safety? How will we measure safety? These will be our questions. Even though return is likely still many months away, the UUS:E Policy Board will begin discussing return scenarios at its May meeting. We want to be ready when the time comes.

For now, we continue in lockdown. We continue with social distancing. We continue trying to figure out how to be of service to those who are struggling. We continue trying to figure out how to live in this strange, isolating reality. In my pastoral conversations with many of you, and in my small group meetings and virtual office hours, I often ask the question, What are you looking forward to? Some of you respond that you are looking forward to online gatherings with family and friends, favorite TV shows, going outside for a hike, moments of creativity. Some of you respond with “I’m looking forward to going back to UUS:E!” Understandably, some of you have trouble answering the question. Especially now that we’re two months into the lockdown and the days and weeks are starting to blur together, it’s sometimes hard to know what we’re looking forward to. There’s another question I am starting to ask, which is a more difficult question to answer. What are you grieving? I started asking this question when I recognized that my oldest son turned 18 in April. That fact alone is hard to believe. But turning 18 feels like such a milestone. It signifies a transition to adulthood. There should be some public right-of-passage. High school graduation? Well, he’ll graduate, but it won’t be the quintessential high school graduation. There won’t be a public celebration. There won’t be a big party. I realized I am grieving the loss of this moment in his life. I was looking forward to it. As his parent, it’s my achievement too. It’s my time to feel pride. I’ve lost that.

I’m sure you’ve lost something to COVID-19 too. Or perhaps you’ve lost someone to COVID-19. What is the content of your grief? It’s important to ask what we’re looking forward to. Answering that question keeps us hopeful. But I don’t want to underestimate the loss we are also experiencing. We know it is good and right to grieve when we experience loss. We know it is spiritually healthy to feel the loss to its fullest, to let it live in us so that we can learn to live with it. So I ask you this questions as well: What have you lost? As always, I am available to talk further with you about this. I welcome your calls or emails. And I also encourage you to talk to each other. Naming our losses is part of the healing. And, ultimately, it will be part of our return to our beloved meeting house on West Vernon St. in Manchester.

With much love and care,

—Rev. Josh

 

Introducing Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Trinity Solar Webinar

Trinity Solar Flyer 4-2020

Tuesday, April 21, 1-2 PM

Are you wasting sunlight? If you haven’t looked into solar or want to go solar but haven’t found the time or the right “fit”, give Trinity the opportunity to make this a win-win-win!
In keeping with safe social distancing practices, Trinity is now providing its customers with consultations over the phone and the internet. They are able to determine if a home qualifies for a no-cost solar installation remotely and free of charge.
If you choose to advance and take advantage of the no-cost installation Trinity between now and May 31st, UUSE receives a $1500 contribution AND $1500 to the homeowner (see details in flyer). LINK TO FLYER.
David Luchetti will be hosting a webinar to highlight the partnership and program. Attendees will have the opportunity for Q&A at the end of the presentation.
Tuesday, April 14, 1-2 PM