WuuDSTOCK Party Success

Unitarian Universalist Society: East celebrated the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in our own way: a fantastic WuuDSTOCK party, complete with hippie costumes, decorations, open mic, yummy snacks, a rock band (The Dilemma), beads and flower children. Truly a party of hippie solidarity and peace!

Open mic featured the best golden oldies and the band The Dilemma blew everyone’s mind!

Golden Gala – Dining & Dancing Across the Decades

Honoring the Past, Envisioning the Future

Golden Gala

Dining & Dancing Across the Decades
Friday October 4, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
Georgina’s Restaurant, Bolton

A delightful evening for young, old and everyone in between! Delicious buffet dinner, dancing with DJ Jeff Slogesky, and special surprises. Celebrate our first half-century in style!!

Vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free options. Buy tickets every Sunday after services from August 4 – September 15. $20 for adults, $10 for teens, free for children age 12 and under, $60 household maximum. On-site child care for 5-and-under by reservation. Can’t get to church on a Sunday? Email Lesley Schurmann to make reservations lesley57@cox.net. Let’s celebrate 50 years of Unitarian Universalism East of the River!

August Milestones ~ This Month in UUS:E History:

August 1974: Just five years after our founding, the UUS:E directory lists 255 members and other involved adults! We report 99 children age 14 or under to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Department of Extension, with an actual church school enrollment of 65.

August 1977: James Juros, the architect for the new UUS:E building on West Vernon Street, begins meeting with every group and committee at the church. The excitement is palpable!

Looking forward to other 50th Anniversary commemorations, including:

  • “Revisiting the Empowerment Controversy,” discussion of Rev. Morrison-Reed’s book looking at events in the Unitarian Universalist Association 50 years ago. September 19 at 3 and 7 PM. See article elsewhere in this issue.
  • Looking Back, Looking Forward. A legacy service on November 3.
  • Affirmation Reunion. Tentative – Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Watch for mug and tee-shirt sales in the lobby. Ongoing.
  • Multi-media timeline created by Carol Marion (to the right of the stage) and photos of each of our congregational homes (hallway near office entrance.) Ongoing..

Questions? Ideas? Want to volunteer for anything?? Contact Anne Carr: acarr06040@yahoo.com

Come Celebrate Lughnasadh!

Wheat stockSunday, August 3rd, 7 PM

Also known as Lammas, this is the first of the three harvest festivals. Halfway between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox, Lughnasadh is the harvest festival in pagan tradition. We will celebrate the ingathering of the many seeds sown last spring, and give thanks for our harvests, physical and spiritual. Please bring a snack to share for afterward.
PLEASE rsvp to Leslie Greene 860-461-3286, or greenedog423@gmail.com.

Minister’s Column July 2019

Dear Ones:

These words from my annual report to the congregation feel appropriate for this final column of the 2018-2019 congregational year: I begin with a heartfelt THANK YOU to the members and friends of UUS:E for your continued support and enthusiasm for my ministry. It is a continuing source of satisfaction for me to know that you genuinely appreciate my work at UUS:E and in the wider community. I want to extend deep gratitude to Rob Stolzman (president) and Kevin Holian-Borgnis (vice president) who have provided excellent leadership to the Policy Board and Program Council. I want to offer a special “thank you” to all the elected and appointed leaders with whom I have the opportunity to imagine, develop and implement the various ministries of our congregation. Finally, I want to thank our wonderful staff for the great job they do. To Gina, Mary, Jane, Annie, Emmy, Jerry and Audrey (our nursery staff person): You work with grace, dignity and a powerful commitment to UUS:E. Thanks for all you do!

****

In honor of UUS:E’s 50th anniversary, I’d like to propose a common “summer read” for our congregation. UU minister and historian of the African American UU experience, the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, has written a new book on significant events in the Unitarian Universalist Association that took place 50 years ago. The book is called Revisiting the Black Empowerment Controversy: Black Power and Unitarian Universalism. It is available from inSpirit, our denominational bookstore. To purchase the book at a 10% discount, we will be placing a bulk order from the UUS:E office. Please contact Annie Gentile at 860-646-5151 before July 17 to be included in the bulk order. If you’d like to order the book sooner, call 800-215-9076 or order online at https://www.uuabookstore.org/Revisiting-the-Empowerment-Controversy-P18363.aspx. If you need financial assistance in purchasing the book, please contact me at revpawelek@gmail.com. Book discussions will take place in the UUS:E chapel on Thursday, September 19. Attend either at 3:00 PM or 7:00 PM.

****

In early June we held a powerful conversation on Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. There were many people who wanted to participate but couldn’t due to schedule conflicts. Watch for more opportunities this fall to deepen the conversation.

****

I am very excited to announce that UUS:E has been invited to develop a partnership with Manchester’s Verplanck Elementary School. Members of UUS:E’s Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee and I have assessed our capacity to participate in such a partnership. After meeting with a staff person from the school’s Family Resource Center, we feel we definitely have the capacity. Further, this is a great opportunity in UUS:E’s 50th anniversary year to make a new commitment to the Manchester community. The partnership will support low-income children and their families, many of whom are immigrants. Support includes a holiday gift drive, preparation of Thanksgiving baskets, mentoring, homework help, etc. We can start slowly and adapt to needs in the school community as they emerge. Look for more information in the article in this newsletter.

Have a great summer!

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Come Celebrate LITHA (Summer Solstice)

SunsetJoin the UUS:E Pagan Study Group for a multigenerational observation of Litha

Friday, June 21, 2019, at 7:00 P.M. at the Unitarian Universalist Society: East Sanctuary

All are Welcome!

Litha celebrates the longest day of the year. Come learn about the union of god and goddess at Litha, and the god’s diminishing influence after the solstice. If you are planning to attend, PLEASE RSVP to Peggy Gagne at (860) 646-6828 or pgagne15@att.net. We need to know how many to plan for the activity portion of the night. Please bring a light snack to share. The planned activity will be a bit messy, so bring a shirt for cover if you don’t want to get dirty. If you arrive after 7 pm, please wait just inside the doors to the sanctuary so we can welcome you into the circle.

Living Your Faith: Finding and Walking Your Path as a Unitarian Universalist

On May 26, 2019, the service was titled “Living Your Faith: Finding and Walking Your Path as a Unitarian Universalist.” Stacey Musulin presented the following talk.

Revised Manifesto

THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES WHEEL

Image courtesy Ian Riddell and Kimberley Debus

Those who participate in the Living Your Faith program are encouraged to write and deliver a “manifesto.” This is defined in our learning materials as “a specification of your beliefs and a description of how your practices support and further those beliefs.” It’s like a capstone project that strives to bring together what a person believes with who she aspires to be.

In March, my Living Your Faith compadres and I wrote our manifestos and shared them with one another. At our last meeting, I received some really good feedback on my delivery as well as what I’d written. The best advice I got, other than to sloooow doooown, was to open up more and talk about the uncertainties I have, and the times when I feel I’m losing my way. We recognize that the spiritual path we Unitarian Universalists are on is not a lock-step linear route to inner peace and enlightenment. I value that Unitarian Universalism supports people in their search for truth and meaning over our lifespans, both individually and collectively within the congregation. I have sincere gratitude for the joys and wonders in my world, but life can also be hard, messy, and hurtful. It’s ok to question everything. I don’t have it all figured out. I know that I will struggle and change my beliefs over time, but the important thing is to keep trying, keep learning, and keep evolving. As professor Brene Brown said in her recent Netflix special, The Call to Courage, “You’re going to know failure if you’re brave with your life,” and I hope that over time, I will learn to be more courageous in my precious time here on Earth, and I believe that my faith can help me do that.

I would like to share with you some of my own history and those that have influenced me on my spiritual path:

I only recently joined UUS:E. I am not a life-long UU. I was first introduced briefly to this faith at age 13 by a classmate, Emily. I’d never heard of Unitarian Universalism, so I asked her, “What do you believe?” Emily paused, then answered, “We believe everything is connected.” That summed it up for her and it obviously struck a chord in me because here I am at age 48, remembering her simple words of faith. That short sentence left an impression: “We believe everything is connected.”

Like so many in this country, my beliefs and cultural expressions have been influenced by Christianity. My ancestors identified as Catholic and I attended Catholic school for 11 years. However, one of my grandfathers for a time sought other religious community in the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, and both my parents encouraged me to question what I learned in Catholic religious education classes. When I was a teenager, my father told me I could choose whether or not to be confirmed in the Catholic religion. I chose not to be. When she was middle-aged, about the age I am now, my mother studied many concepts of spirituality, from Bart Ehrman lectures & books about the historical Jesus to the writings of psychic Sylvia Brown. When she died, my mother identified as an agnostic who believed in a soul and some kind of afterlife.  When I met my husband, Andrew, I found a fellow person-of-Catholic-traditions-who-no-longer-identified-as Catholic. He and I enjoyed deep conversations. Andrew introduced me to the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Joseph Campbell, Stephen Mitchell’s excellent translation of the Tao Te Ching, Karen Armstrong, and the Bhagavad Gita. In short, I am grateful to my family for demonstrating and supporting the idea that there is no one single path to truth.

I am also very grateful for the religious education experiences I’ve enjoyed at UUS:E these past two years. I began coming to UUS:E in March 2017. I’d done a little internet research beforehand. A liberal religious tradition and the absence of a set creed intrigued me, but I think I was most curious to find out what Emily meant by, “We believe everything is connected.” As I learned more about Unitarian Universalism, the concept that participating in a discussion on race, attending a Social Justice Committee meeting, creating art, or learning strategies for nonviolent communication can count as religious education and spiritual practice at first surprised me. However, I think I always believed that those self-improvement activities, and any actions that help people directly, were more important than the traditional religious practices in which I may have engaged in the past. It was just really nice to finally have that understanding acknowledged.

I credit the influence of my participation in the Living Your Faith program this year for my decision to officially join UUS:E. I so appreciate the time, thought, and energy that facilitator Tom Gervais and my co-participants, Angie, Carolyn, Ed, Elizabeth, Peter, and Wendy shared with me. With everyone’s support, I met my personal goals to improve my confidence in articulating my spiritual beliefs and to define and develop some sort of spiritual practice.

 

So what do I believe?

  • I believe in the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, and acknowledge at least six sources of faith…I leave room for the possibility of there being a few more sources of inspiration, like art, music, and maybe even mathematical equations.
  • I believe in the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and to even aspire to a higher level: to treat others as they would wish to be treated (within rational limits, of course)
  • I believe in the power of language, of reason, and the scientific method. I believe that our minds are powerful forces, both individually and collectively.
  • I believe there is inherent goodness in humanity, and that inherent goodness is best expressed in activities that support the rights and worth of all people.
  • I believe that actions are more important than words and I recognize the admonition in the New Testament book of James that says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
  • I believe that “it takes a village” – that there is value in engaging and growing with other people, even when it is not in my introverted nature to do so.
  • I believe that it is in my very nature to be imperfect and to experience suffering. But I also believe that it is possible to learn from my mistakes, to gain wisdom from the difficult experiences I have lived through, and will live through in the future. I believe it is possible to move beyond the negative emotions I feel.  Hopefully I can be a wiser and less-judgmental person for having lived those experiences.
  • I believe that there is some kind of all-inclusive Divine energy, but whatever that Mystery is, is not necessarily something that I can have a personal relationship with or fully comprehend with my human mind.
  • I believe that other people can hold different beliefs and have different practices, and that my beliefs and practices are not superior to that of others. I believe that freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.
  • I believe that it doesn’t matter what I label my spiritual beliefs, so long as they “work” for me, respect others, and support my continued development to be a better person.

Finally, I believe in what my wise teenaged UU friend Emily believed, that “everything is connected.” I think that the Seventh Principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” may have been written as the final UU principle because it can be interpreted in a way that encompasses all the ideas within the previous six principles. Body, mind, and spirit are connected. Past, present, and future are connected. All life forms, our planet Earth, the Universe, and the Great Mystery (whatever you might believe that to be) are connected. The purpose of our lives is to realize the connections, and to achieve balance and peace.

So how can I get to that state of connection, and feel good about who I am and what I do?

In Living Your Faith, we discussed the importance of spiritual practices, but that these can take many forms. I try to meditate daily in an attempt to give my consciousness a break and realize that my true Self is not the myriad of thoughts and emotions running through my mind at any given moment. When meditating, if I stick with it long enough, I notice that I can breathe more deeply. I practice noticing the thoughts I have and realize that there is a “me”, a truer Self, that is separate from them.  I am very, very good at imagining and preparing for the worst possible future scenario. While this may sometimes be a good survival strategy, it is not the best way to appreciate the gift of the here and now. Meditation and mindful actions (such as yoga or gardening) are one way to balance my “monkey mind” (no offense to monkeys) and allow myself to be a better spouse, dog-mom, daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker. On the days when concentration and releasing thoughts fail, I meditate on a short prayer I heard Reverend Josh use in an archived sermon:

I don’t know….I am not in control….I have something to learn…I am here now.

The key is to commit to a spiritual practice consistently, and not to allow chores, work, and worries to get in the way of what I need to do to try to stay balanced.

There is a tendency to judge in our culture that left unchecked, creates toxic environments in our political system, our communities, our workplaces, our families, and within ourselves. Compassion and empathy can seem in short supply. I recognize that I can be quick to judge as well. However, when times get tough, I can, as Fred Rogers quoted his mother, “(l)ook for the helpers, You will always find people who are helping.” Witnessing the helpers, and learning and emulating their examples is one way to develop the empathy and compassion I think is needed in our outer and inner worlds today. When encountering extreme behaviors such as racism, sexism, and other forms of violence, I can employ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s principle to “attack the forces of evil, not the persons doing the evil.” I can demonstrate respect for life and keep hope through actions supporting the goal of a Beloved Community. Hopefully, my minor contributions may combine with others’ actions, like the effect of a steady wind creating multiple ripples on the surface of water. Over time and under the right circumstances, I have faith that those combined ripples can form great and powerful waves of good in our world because everything is connected, all our actions are connected.

I can also commit to educating myself in ways to improve my connections with other people, the Earth, and my own Self. I will continue to read, study, ask questions, attend service, and engage in other experiences to expand my understanding and create positive connections with others. When I feel the actions of others bruise my ego or put me on the defensive, I can identify the needs of others and how those needs and values are similar to my own, thus breaking down the illusion of “me” versus “them.” I can meditate on the concept that all life holds within some Divine spark that I share as well.

When I do not live up to my ideals or potential, or when my life seems hopelessly out of balance, I need to be compassionate towards myself, just as I continue to strive to be more understanding of others. Forgiveness is important to freeing oneself from the disappointments and frustrations of the past. The important thing when one falls down or falls short, is to get up and try again, to try to stay connected to your true Self, your beliefs, your loved ones, your community, and your world. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “…we must keep moving. We must keep going… if you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.” I think that admonition can apply to just about anything we want to accomplish in our lives.

In his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality…Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” I believe that the purpose of our lives is to realize how we all are connected to one another. As my husband, Andrew, often says, the most important thing in our lives is our relationships. The sharing of our stories, our concerns, and our joys is a sacred act that binds us into community at each Sunday service. With the love and support of my family, friends, and my UU community, I know I have a better chance of living a more purposeful, active, and balanced life that I would if I were going it alone. Diversity of thought and action is celebrated here. The inherent sacredness of each life and the stories we represent and relate are respected here. How do we stay connected amidst our differences? Retired UU minister and author Jane Ranney Rzepka credited her mother for explaining what holds a liberal religious community together. She said, “We don’t think alike, we walk together.” Being together, truly together, and present to ourselves and each other to me, is the best way to show “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

Thank you for listening and for helping me on my personal spiritual path. Thank you for being with me now, and in all the days to come.

Rob Laurens – Live in Concert

Saturday, June 22 at 7:00 PMRob Laurens

“Rob Laurens culls his naturalistic ballads from the fertile soil of American folk tradition, but his intimate, incisive lyrics embody the best instincts of the contemporary songwriter movement.”—Scott Alarik, Boston Globe

“Rob Laurens has the rare ability to write songs that seem like they’ve always been there. When he steps on stage, you’re drawn into the atmosphere that he creates from the first chord. Witty, engaging, thoughtful, and whimsical — it’s all there, held together by taste, discernment, and an intriguing, original guitar style.”—Dave Palmater, host, Folk Radio WUMB 91.9 FM

Rob has won the New Folk Award for Songwriting at both the Kerrville Folk Festival (TX) and its sister festival, The Columbia River Festival (WA). He has returned to play the main stage at these and many other festivals, including the Strawberry, High Sierra, and Napa Valley Festivals in California. He tours both east and west coasts, playing such clubs as The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California, and Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tickets: $15 for adults, $8 for children, youth and students

Call UUS:E at 860-646-5151 to reserve seats, or go online at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rob-laurens-live-in-concert-tickets-62064215740.

Community Conversation with the Program Council

The Unitarian Universalist Society: East Program Council invites members and friends to join us for one of two discussions:

2:00 PM or 7:00 PM on Thursday, June 27 in the UUS:E Chapel.

The purpose of the event is to invite discussion of current UUS:E committee activities and solicit input on future programs and events to expand the offerings at UUS:E. The Program Council would love to hear your thoughts.

— Kevin Holian-Borgnis and the Program Council

20 Lawmakers

& what their handwriting tells us about them

Are you interested in the drama of current events? Want to learn more about its cast of characters? On June 2, after the second Sunday Service, Carol Lowbeer, professional graphologist, will discuss the handwriting of 20 prominent lawmakers and candidates and tell you what those swirls, loops slants in their writing tell you about their real talents and strengths. Which candidate has the staying power to win the race? Which is over-sensitive? Which lawmaker is the most flexible? The confident appearing legislator may be week-willed and the “organized” candidate may be less dependable than you realized.

Graphology is often used in Europe for candidate selection and reveals traits which may be hard to evaluate, like perseverance, attention to detail and dependability. Carol has analyzed the scripts of thousands of individuals, lectured and taught classes since 1993.

Audience questions are welcome. An entertaining hour is guaranteed in this unique informal workshop. The workshop is from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM in the Chapel Room in the Garden Level. There will be no charge for the workshop to UUS:E members and friends.

Honest Conversations with Muslim Neighbors

Sunday, June 23 at 1:00 PM at Unitarian Universalist Society: East

Who are our Muslim neighbors? What do they believe? How do extremist actions worldwide affect them? Hear Connecticut Muslims share their stories, and respond to questions such as:

Why don’t we hear moderate Muslims speak out against extremism?

Why do some girls & women wear Muslim dress, and others do not?

What does the Qur’an really say about people of other religions?

American Muslims don’t have all the answers, but our guests will respond out of their own experiences, raising issues that concern them as well as us. Together, in conversation, we can promote a more peaceful world for everyone.

ALL are welcome: come for an afternoon of interfaith bridge-building. Bring a friend!

“Honest Conversations” is a collaborative project of: CT Council for Interreligious Understanding (CCIU) the Muslim Coalition of CT and Hartford Seminary

RSVPs / more info: interfaith@ccfiu.org (CCIU)