50th Anniversary – February 2019 Events and News

Passing the Flame, One Generation to Another

50th anniversary chalice

Roland Chirico, one of the early members of our society, and Gina Lucchetti from the RE program, light a beautiful new chalice during the 50th Anniversary kick-off on January 13. Rev. Josh, RE Director Gina Campellone and charter member Naomi Zima told stories from each decade of our history during the intergenerational service. More than 70 people stayed for a good old fashioned Soup Social, followed by a slide show and program!

Dedicating 50th anniversary chalice

This Month in UUS:E History

In February 1969, the dedicated people who were creating a UU congregation in Manchester began cleaning up their newly-rented property at 466 Main Street. Originally the Church of the Nazarene, it had been a karate school when we took it over. Volunteers patched holes and painted the walls, replaced doors, hung blankets to “define” RE classrooms in the basement and cleaned everything! (This building is now home base for the Manchester Area Conference of Churches.) Meantime, there were Sunday morning “programs” in homes and school rooms, as well as pot luck dinners where people got to know each other, and considered what kind of a fellowship we wanted to be.

50th Anniversary Events This MonthUUSE 50th New Chalice Gold

  • On February 10, Rev. Josh will speak about our denomination’s challenges in responding to racism, in 1969 and today. Postponed from Jan. 20 due to the ice storm.
  • On February 17, Rev. Josh will explore what it means to be a “covenanted” faith – without mandatory dogma, we are joined by our commitment to values and intentions.
  • After the second service on the 17th, Rev. Josh hosts the Valentine’s Day Chocolate Auction.
  • AND the first-decade members continue to share their recollections with our in-house historians: Nancy and Joe Madar and Susan Barlow. Watch for their service in March!

Minister’s Column February 2019

To all UUS:E Members:

Our ministry theme for February is trust. In reflecting on this theme, I realize trust occupies a different location within Unitarian Universalism than it does in other faiths. Ours is a this-worldly, covenantal and relational faith. We gather around a set of behavioral principles—guidelines for how we are going to be together, how we are going to treat each other. We purposefully do not gather around a particular theology or doctrine. What does this mean? It means that we place our primary trust in each other. Our trust is horizontal. It extends from person to person within the congregation and out into the wider community.

In doctrinal faiths, people gather around a theological idea or, more simply, a collective belief. Thus they place their primary trust in God or whatever metaphysical reality lies at the heart of their faith. Their trust is vertical, extending “up” to God. This does not mean that they don’t trust their fellow-parishioners or that they don’t have behavioral covenants—they do. But by definition that kind of horizontal, person-to-person trust is secondary to trust in God.

In doctrinal faiths, the conversation about trust is necessarily grounded in belief. In relational faiths, the conversation about trust is grounded in relationships.

Of course, within any Unitarian Universalist congregation there is a wonderful array of spiritual sensibilities, spiritual orientations, spiritual identities, and spiritual beliefs. In worship an atheist might be sitting next to a naturalistic theist, who might be sitting next to a Christian, who might be sitting next to a completely different kind of Christian, who might be sitting next to a Pagan, who might be sitting next to a completely different kind of Pagan, who might be sitting next to an Agnostic, who might be sitting next to a Buddhist, and so on. Our beliefs clearly do not unite us. But our UU principles and our UUS:E covenant call us into relationships with our fellow congregants, with people in general, with non-human creatures and, ultimately, with the planet. And not just any relationships. No, we are called into relationships that have dignity, justice, compassion, a sense of interconnection, and love at their core. As Unitarian Universalists, we agree that such relationships here and now, in this life, in this world, matter immensely. That’s what unites us!

In order to cultivate such relationships, we must trust each other. We must trust that each of us enters into congregational life (however we do so) with a desire to treat each other with dignity, justice, compassion and love. The more I think about this, the more I realize how truly precious it is to be part of a relational faith. Especially in this era of bitterness, conflict, polarization and fear—when trust is so, so, so difficult—it is precious beyond measure to have a relational faith. Sustaining such a faith is hard work. But in my view, it is righteous work! And it’s the work we’ve all signed up for. I hope that gets an “Amen!”

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Golden Anniversary Kick-Off

We’re Kicking Off Our Golden Anniversary
on January 13, 2019!

Save the date … You’ll want to be there when we:

  • Dedicate a new chalice for the next half-century
  • Time-travel through our past in stories and music
  • View an inspirational slideshow
  • Savor brunch food (after 1st service)
  • Celebrate the return of the Soup Social (after 2nd service) followed by a brief, multi-gen program!

This Month in UUS:E History:

On January 16, 1969, 49 determined UU’s signed the incorporation papers to create the Unitarian Universalist Society East, a progressive and welcoming spiritual home east of the Connecticut River. These legal steps followed just four months after the initial meeting at Buckley Elementary School, held to gauge local interest in establishing a UU church in Manchester. Malcolm Barlow recalls that 78 people signed their names on the clipboard that first evening, and a committee was formed to pursue this goal. Talk with Malcolm or Susan Barlow, Naomi Zima, Roland Chirico, Mary Ann Handley, or Dave Sherman to hear more about those first few exciting months!

Other 50th Anniversary events this month:

  • January 20 Rev. Josh will preach about the Unitarian Universalist Association’s challenges in responding to racism, in 1969 and today (see Sunday Services Schedule).
  • On January 26 be part of the “50 Donors Challenge” at the UUS:E Auction & Chili Cook-off.

Questions? Want to help plan these and other exciting events, including a carnival, a gala and many more? Please contact Anne Carr at acarr06040@yahoo.com

A Brief History of Unitarian Universalist Society:East

In 1968, the Unitarian Universalist Connecticut Valley District sent out a call to all those in the Manchester area interested in forming a new UU congregation – a liberally oriented religious faith. There were articles in local media inviting people to participate. Months of study and organizational meetings followed, and on January 19, 1969, forty-nine persons signed as charter members and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Manchester was born. In 1973, the name of the fellowship was changed to Unitarian Universalist Society: East, to reflect the location of members’ homes in several eastern Connecticut towns besides Manchester, including East Hartford, Glastonbury, South Windsor, Tolland, and Vernon.

During its first years, the Society held services in rented properties with a part-time minister. The Rev. Arnold Westwood was called as full-time minister in October 1970.

First Sunday Service on Main Street

President Bud Godreau and the Rev. Arnold Westwood

Membership grew, and in March 1977, the congregation bought a four-acre parcel on West Vernon Street. Building began the following year, and UUS:E moved to its new home in September 1979. Membership continued to grow, and, after much study, a schedule of two Sunday services began. In ten years, the congregation expanded again, with a large two-story addition to the north.

The Rev. Connie Sternberg began her ministry at UUS:E in 1989. She inaugurated several popular programs such as Build Your Own Theology and Introduction to UUism. During Connie’s ministry, the congregation affirmed that they liked an even split of responsibilities between the minister and members of the congregation. This concept of “shared ministry” and “lay-led services” continues today.

The Pastoral Friends group formed in 1996 to help the minister provide care and support to Society members in special need.

In April 1999, the congregation voted to become a “Welcoming Congregation,” formally affirming through a UUA program a long-standing commitment to acceptance of gays and lesbians. UUS:E began working regionally on combating racism, joining with other area churches, including the other two UU churches in the Hartford area. Connie Sternberg retired in 2001 and was voted Minister Emerita. The Rev. Joshua Pawelek joined us in August 2003 as our settled minister.

Five years later, the congregation again needed more space, and undertook a large study and congregational survey on the topic of growth, after which a capital campaign began to create the lovely building and grounds we enjoy today.

In 2011, the congregation has 288 members, and a paid staff of one full-time and five part-time people. The Religious Education program is strong and well-received by parents and children. Sunday services are well attended, and the congregation especially enjoys the music program. The society maintains its traditional warmth and caring and takes pride in its commitment to liberal religious ideals and social justice, working with other local congregations on issues such as anti-racism, universal healthcare and gender equity.

Trumpeters bring music to the congregation

Music provided by trumpeters during a Sunday service

Minister’s Column January 2019

To all UUS:E Members:

I wish to offer you my deep and heartfelt congratulations on reaching your fiftieth anniversary year. This is an awesome milestone. I am so pleased to be serving as your minister as we “enter, rejoice, and come in” to our semicentennial!

Our ministry theme for January is possibility. For me, this suggests a look toward the future. But I don’t want to think about it quite that way, at least not at the beginning of this celebratory year. Instead, I invite each of us to recognize that fifty years ago, the founders of our congregation were looking toward the future. They imagined a liberal religious, Unitarian Universalist congregation east of the Connecticut River, committed to spiritual freedom, reason in religion, and the search for truth and meaning. They imagined possibility after possibility. We, today, are the fruit of their imagining. We are the possibility they helped bring into reality. In truth, we may not be exactly what they imagined at the time. But that’s OK. Approximately 2600 Sunday mornings later, approximately 600 board meetings later (not to mention 50 Christmas Eves, 50 Homecoming services, fifty annual meetings, 4 settled ministers, hundreds and hundreds of people elected to leadership positions, and countless potluck meals), we are the fulfillment of their dreams!

I want to give a special shout-out and thanks to Anne Carr, a Member at Large on the UUS:E Policy Board, who graciously volunteered to lead the coordination of our celebration efforts. She has put together a great team of volunteers who are planning various events, Sunday services, a carnival in June, a gala celebration in September, and much more.

Over the course of the coming year, there will be a variety of Sunday Services that look back over the decades, that try to tease out the various legacies of those who’ve been part of this congregation. We will consider the big themes that have defined UUS:E, such as covenant, shared ministry, beloved community, sustainability, generosity, and caring. And come next fall, we will be taking our own look at the future. What possibilities do we imagine, and how do we start turning those possibilities into realities, such that those who are here fifty years from now will be the fulfillment of our dreams?

Happy New Year!Rev. Joshua Pawelek

Happy Fiftieth Anniversary Year!

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Ministers Column December 2018

Star of wonder, star of light, star, with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us through this prefect night.

Our theme for December is mystery. My thoughts go immediately to the barren December landscape—the leafless trees, the empty fields, the brownish lawns, the slowly-freezing lakes and ponds, and, perhaps most significant, the long, dark nights. There’s something utterly mysterious about a dark, pre-winter sky, dotted with star light and perhaps a silver sliver of moon. It’s not surprising to me that the birth story of Jesus features a night sky and a shining star (though I’m mindful that we should not equate winter in ancient Israel with winter in 21st-century New England).

I love the long, dark nights at this time of year. To behold the late autumn night sky makes me feel infinitely small and impossibly large at the same time. It makes me feel completely insignificant and also informs me that my life matters. It makes me feel alone, apart, isolated and entirely related to the whole of life. These sets of dual feelings—these both/ands—are part of the mystery of this season. In response, all I can do is pause and wonder.

I choose that word ‘wonder’ very intentionally. Wonder is, I believe, the appropriate response to mystery. Wonder is the appropriate response to phenomena and experiences we cannot explain rationally. Wonder is the appropriate response to profound—and at times profoundly mixed—feelings in the presence of the inexplicable. Wonder is the appropriate response to beauty that takes our breath away. Wonder is the appropriate response to mythical stories that cannot possibly be true, yet which nevertheless contain truth.

In the response to mystery, we have choices. We can choose to downplay or deny the depth of our feelings. I could say, “It’s just night-time. There’s nothing else going on. If I’m feeling something profound, it’s just some chemical reaction in my body making me feel that way.” Or, we can offer supernatural explanations: “God wants me to feel this way.” However, both of these responses, by providing explanations, undercut the power that comes with just letting the mystery be mysterious!

I prefer to wonder. What does it mean that I feel this way—big and small, significant and insignificant, alone and connected? How is it that I can contain all these feelings at once? What does the immense darkness mean to me? What do the stars mean to me? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it awesome? What if there were a God (goddess, spirit, energy, source) that created all this? What kind of being would that be? What might they expect of me? Of us?

Moreover, when it comes to miraculous Christmas stories of virgin births, angels singing to shepherds and magi following stars, of course, we can explain it all away as mythology. But what if explaining it away wasn’t our first response? What if we simply let our hearts and minds wonder about the meaning of the stories?

When we respond to mystery with hard and fast explanations, we lose something. However, when we respond with wonder, we gain. Wonder creates space for questioning. Wonder allows the mind to traverse paths it may not otherwise traverse. Wonder allows for creative thinking. Wonder allows for an assessment of one’s feelings.

As we enter into the holiday season, mysteries abound. Let us not explain them away too quickly. Let us meet them with wonder.

 

With best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,

—Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

Ministers Column Novermber 2018

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for November is Memory. Like so many of our themes, memory is a vast topic. So where to begin?

The first words that came to mind for me are from a reading in our hymnal by the Rev. Bill Schulz. It’s an invitation to worship: “Come into this place of memory / and let its history warm your soul.” Given that 2019 is our congregation’s 50th anniversary year, we’re going to be reflecting on our UUS:E and our Unitarian Universalist history. We’ll be peering back, remembering where we’ve been, where we’ve come from. We’ll be recalling our founding generations. We’ll be celebrating their commitment to our liberal faith, and to our specific religious home at 153 West Vernon St. in Manchester. I am confident this remembering will warm our souls, as Schulz suggests.

****

All good worship leads to remembering. We live in the midst of a dominant culture that is toxic to memory, a dominant culture that wants us to forget what has happened and what is happening around us; a dominant culture that wants us to squirrel ourselves away in front of screens, wants us to focus exclusively on our material lives, wants us to drift apart from our neighbors. Good worship counters these dynamics by reminding us of our highest values, our most passionate aspirations, our deepest commitments, and how we are connected. Good worship reminds us of what matters most in our lives. We need such reminders to meet the challenges presented to us by the dominant culture.

****

I found this quote posted on the UU resources site, “Soul Matters:”

The space of memory is elusive. Mysterious. Seemingly beyond our grasp. Who can really say “where” it is? But here’s what we do know: it is in the space of memory that we are somehow held together, and also re-assembled. As we remember, we are re-membered. In that space, memories become these self-animated threads that weave the pieces and parts of us into this more complete thing we call “me” and “you.”

These words remind me of much of the research on how people heal from trauma. Healing often requires that the survivor remembers what happened, and is then able to express the memory to therapists, family, friends, religious community, etc.—people who are able to listen, support, and honor their experience. Such remembering is difficult for the survivor. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. It is difficult for the community that holds them. Sometimes the community turns away. But this remembering and naming is a path to healing.

In late September it was painful to witness the national turmoil over Christine Blasey Ford’s memories of sexual assault at the hands of now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. The situation forced many people to relive painful memories of sexual violence and trauma. Mindful of how difficult this national moment was for so many people, I plan to preach about it on November 11. I say, let’s be part of the healing!

Further, on November 20, we are invited to participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) at the Metropolitan Community Church in Hartford (see the announcement in this newsletter). TDOR is a global observance that remembers transgender people who’ve been murdered because of their gender identity or expression. It is a solemn occasion, yet one filled with hope for a more just and humane future. This is yet another way people of faith use memory in the service of healing.

With love,Rev. Joshua Pawelek

—Rev. Josh

Emergency Preparedness – Everyone Evacuate the Building!

A Message from the UUS:E Emergency Management Team 

“Everyone evacuate the building!” Hearing this during a Sunday Service, you will know the Emergency Response Plan has been activated. But what do you do? If it happens during a Sunday service:

  • You must leave the building, using both exits out to the parking lot.
  • Go to your car and remain in your car.
  • If you have a child on the garden level, you may assemble at a safe distance from the front of the building so that your child can brought to you.
  • If you are on the Garden Level when the alarm is sounded, RE children and staff are to exit the building at the nearest exit and assemble at a safe distance from the building.
  • Adult RE leaders will bring small groups of children at intervals around to the front of the building to be reunited with their parents.

Very important: fire apparatus must come down the exit ramp—STAY IN YOUR CARS AND DON’T DRIVE OUT, CLOGGING THE WAY FOR RESPONDERS! Wait for fire officials to let you know you can leave.

PS—a fire drill is coming soon to a Sunday Service near you. Be ready!!!

Ministers Column October 2018

Dear Ones:

Our October ministry theme is sanctuary. We’ve been talking a lot about sanctuary as the peace of mind and physical protection we expect to offer to people seeking to avoid deportation—and, of course, we will continue to talk about it that way. But I also think it’s important to explore sanctuary in all its meanings. I’m mindful that we often refer to our main meeting hall at UUS:E as “the sanctuary.” I’m mindful that we sometimes refer to those “joys and sorrows that remain unspoken in the sanctuaries of our hearts.” I’m mindful that for so many members and friends of UUS:E, our meetinghouse and our congregational community offer sanctuary from the stresses of a chaotic nation and world, from the rush and crush of busy lives, from the everyday anxieties we carry with us. A sanctuary is a place of safety and protection, a place of retreat and reflection, a place of beauty and creation.

UUS:E is a sanctuary for all of us.

My colleague, the Rev. Angela Herrera, writes: “All that you need / for a deep and comforting peace to grow / lies within you. / Once it is in your heart / let it spread into your life, / let it pour from your life into the world – / and once it is in the world, / let it shine upon all beings.” These words appear in Rev. Herrera’s 2012 meditation manual, Reaching for the Sun. They speak to me about the value of a sanctuary like UUS:E. Indeed, I think of UUS:E as a place where each of us can peer within and find what we need for a “deep and comforting peace to grow.” (Find that place in you, where you may go, when you yearn for peace.) And I think of UUS:E as a place that encourages us to pour the peace in our hearts out into the world—to “let it shine on all beings.” (That place from which you reach out to others who are suffering.)

How has UUS:E been a sanctuary for you? Has it provided refuge at a time in your life when you were vulnerable? Has it offered direction at a time in your life when you felt aimless? Has it offered solidarity at a time when you needed to not face life alone? In a culture whose values skew toward the material, the technological and the crass, has UUS:E helped you raise your children to value spirituality, human connection and love? I’m not just asking a rhetorical question. I really want to know your answers. Please share with me how you’ve experienced UUS:E as a sanctuary. You can email me at revpawelek@gmail.com or call at 860-652-8961.

And then there is the question many of you have asked: When will UUS:E provide sanctuary to a person seeking to avoid deportation? The truth is, we don’t know. We’ve been “on alert” three times since we voted to become a sanctuary congregation in May. But in each case, the person or family in question was able to resolve their legal issues and remain in the United States. Still, we know from news reports that people are being deported in record numbers. While we actually shouldn’t want to ever have to offer this kind of sanctuary, now that we’ve made it known we are ready, it’s only a matter of time before someone in profound need will accept our offer. I wish we didn’t live in a world where congregations had to make such offers. But since we do live in such a world, I am proud that we are ready.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Membership Coordinator Job Announcement

Open. Posted September 27, 2018

Unitarian Universalist Society: East, an open and welcoming liberal religious community is seeking a Membership Coordinator. This position fosters the engagement of and provides support to visitors, friends, and members in collaboration with the membership committee. Applicants should have excellent interpersonal skills, and effective written and oral communication skills and time management strategies. This is a 20 hour per week year-round position. The timing of hours varies including most Sundays, planning meetings with the minister and other staff members and evenings, weekends and some religious holidays as needed.

Candidates are required to submit a resume and letter of intent by December 1, 2018, to Annie Gentile at Unitarian Universalist Society: East, 153 Vernon Street West, Manchester, CT 06040 uuseoffice@uuse.org

The position will be contingent upon the completion of a successful background check.
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER