Open Mic Poetry Night


Saturday, January 9th, 7:00 PM

In conjunction with Power Up Manchester, Unitarian Universalist Society: East will host a virtual Open Mic Poetry Night on Saturday, January 9 at 7:00 PM. This event will also serve as a fundraiser for Power Up. Watch our regular eblasts for more information. All poets (professional, amateur, beginning, aspiring, etc.) are encouraged to prepare a poem for this very fun event! Questions: contact Rev. Josh at minister@uuse.org.

Unitarian Universalist Society: East Holiday Party

A Celebration of the Season

Tuesday, December 22, 7:00 PM

Join us for a virtual UUS:E Holiday Party, Tuesday evening, December 22 at 7:00 PM. Zoom login info will be available in the regular eblasts. Bring some holiday food and beverages to this virtual party, decorate your space for holiday cheer. We’ll share holiday traditions and fond memories, maybe some special music, and maybe some surprise guests! Questions: Contact Rev. Josh.

Minister’s Column December 2020

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for December is stillness. I can’t imagine a more essential theme for us in this beautifully dark season in this extraordinarily difficult year. A pandemic rages around us. Our safety—and the safety of our communities—depends on our staying home as much as possible, staying isolated as much as possible, and restricting our movements in the wider community as much as possible. Our safety depends on our capacity to remain still.

As we commenced our congregational year back in September, I was fairly confident the coronavirus would come surging back in New England with the arrival of colder weather. I wasn’t confident because I had some special knowledge or inside information. Every infectious disease specialist in the country, along with doctors, nurses, and public health officials were predicting we’d be here now. This was public knowledge. And the experts were telling us what to do to limit the worst-case scenarios: wear masks, avoid large indoor gatherings, stay socially distant, wash hands often. My goal here is not to lay blame for this largely avoidable public health crisis. Laying blame won’t change reality at this point. What’s done is done. We are where we are as a nation. Our challenge is to stay safe, vigilant, resilient, patient … and still.

In a meditation entitled, “There is a Time to Let Go,” my colleague, the Rev. Gretchen Haley, counsels us to “study stillness and joy.” I like the way Rev. Haley links these two states of being—stillness and joy—as if one lives within the other, and vice versa. So often stillness and joy feel like two separate experiences of the holiday season. We typically encounter holiday joy in gatherings of family and friends, in holiday parties, in singing in the holiday choir, in our holiday music and Christmas Eve services—in being together. We encounter stillness when the sun sets at 4:00 PM, when the snow falls gently on newly frozen ground, when we wake early into the darkness of the pre-dawn, when Christmas lights around the neighborhood touch that ancestral knowledge deep in us—that knowledge that the sun returns, that our working toward a better world is not in vain.

This year, of course, the usual sources of seasonal joy are limited, mostly to Zoom. Our usual opportunities for hugs, touch, eye contact, cooking together, sharing meals, giving gifts, and singing are actually dangerous this year. We need to find joy through other avenues. It’s time to study stillness and joy.

Can you find joy in the stillness? I hope you can. I hope you can study stillness and joy, as Rev. Haley advises. I hope you can discover how stillness and joy live within each other. In the absence of physical connection and togetherness, I hope you can find the peace and contentment that come with being still. I hope you can encounter the many ways the sacred speaks through silence. I hope you can experience how the darkness holds, consoles, and nurtures us. And within all of it, I hope you find joy.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, a blessed solstice, and a happy New Year. Through it all, I encourage you to study stillness. And I pray that you find joy in that stillness.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column November 2020

As we approach the 2020 elections on November 3rd, life in the United States, no matter who you are, is disorienting and painful. Each day seems to bring with it a new cut, a new bruise, a new indignity, a new insult, a new threat to democracy, a new broken norm, a new spike in positive tests, a new largest fire, most damaging flood, strongest hurricane. Of course, different people are impacted differently by each new thing, but the little traumas accumulate in everyone. The loneliness of isolation grows in everyone. Patience runs thin at times in everyone.

Our ministry theme for November is healing. As I sit down to write these words in mid-October, I confess I am finding it challenging to contemplate healing. Healing from what? The list is long: healing from all the interrelated health, economic, educational and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic; from our nation’s foundational sin of racism; from persistent and pervasive sexism that has also become glaringly visible during the pandemic (most notably in the Labor Department’s early October report that women have lost work at four times the rate of men since March); healing from profound ideological polarization in our nation, from vitriolic campaign rhetoric and misinformation campaigns; from blatant abuses of political power; from all the ways our democratic systems and institutions have been harmed by attacks on voting rights, the census, and the postal service, just to name a few; from natural disasters with heightened severity clearly due to human-caused climate change on planet earth.

Ughhh. You know this list. I trust you understand why I am finding it challenging to contemplate healing at this moment. Where is one to even begin?

Maybe healing begins with us. With our community. With our principles. With our covenant. Maybe healing begins with us being available to each other for simple connection and conversation. Available to hear each other’s frustration and anger; to witness each other’s tears without shying away; to offer virtual hugs, because so many of us miss physical touch so much. Maybe healing begins with us being present to each other as we each search for our sources of inward calm, peace, strength, resolve—our inner voice.

I’m contemplating ways we can be more connected. Three thoughts:

First, I encourage every one of you—every UUS:E member and friend—to reach out to me for connection and conversation. While it isn’t always easy—or wise—to meet in person; and while Zoom or the phone are inevitably poor substitutes for face-to-face engagement, there is immense value in meeting however we can. I’ve spoken to many of you in person, by Zoom or by phone since the pandemic began, but certainly not all of you. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: I want to hear from you! You don’t have to be in crisis to contact me. You don’t need to have anything pressing or urgent in order to reach out to me (even conversation about the mundane events of our lives is a good thing in these trying times). You certainly won’t be bothering me if you reach out for conversation! I am available!

Second, because the election is upon us, and because we have no idea what will happen on and immediately after November 3rd, we are organizing two, virtual post-election vigils on November 5th—the first at 1:00, the second at 7:00. Watch the eblast for login information. No matter what happens, we will have a space to be together as a spiritual community in the wake of this very high-stakes election.

Finally, one of the things I love about UUS:E is that so many of you are in touch with each other. So many of you are watching out for each other, listening to each other, caring for each other. When I hear stories about the kinds of support you offer to each other, it warms my heart. It reminds me of the many strengths of our congregation. Keep doing that! Do it even more. Connect with people you may only know a little bit. Get to know them better.

We have much healing ahead of us – as people, as members of local communities, as citizens and residents of a nation, as members of the global community. Our capacity to heal begins with strong relationships. No matter what happens in the world around us, and no matter what other activities call for our attention, let’s take the coming months to focus on our UUS:E relationships. Reach out. Connect. And when the time is right, heal.

Amen and blessed be.

With love, —Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column October 2020

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for October is deep listening. For me, this theme brings many possible questions to mind for personal and collective spiritual exploration. For example, how do we listen deeply to people with whom we disagree radically when it comes to politics and “culture war” issues? We may never agree with them, but can we listen for their deepest fears and anxieties? Their hopes and dreams?

How do we listen deeply to our fellow UUS:E members and friends? Especially in this pandemic time when we must keep our distance, when our regular modes of face-to-face interaction are unavailable, how do we listen to one another? Then there’s the practice of listening to ourselves, to our inner voice, our conscience, our heart, our soul. What conditions are necessary so that we can listen deeply to ourselves?

Somehow I am feeling called right now to listen deeply to the land. This may be because, like so many of us, I love the way the leaves change colors during autumn in New England. (I’m looking forward to singing “Turn Scarlet, Leaves,” – words from the late UU minister, Raymond J. Baughan, set to music by UUS:E Director of Music, Mary Bopp.) Being present to the changing seasons— listening deeply—has always been the source of spiritual experience for me, a way to connect with realities greater than myself.

There’s more to this call than just the changing seasons. Some of us have been talking about conducting an official UUS:E “land acknowledgment” as a way of honoring the indigenous people who originally lived in our region of Connecticut—Podunks, Wangunks, Nipmucs, and others. In light of this, I’ve been spending some time walking around UUS:E’s property, proud of the way we have taken care of it over the years, but also listening for how things might have been in ages past. Wondering. Imagining. Listening. As of writing these words, I don’t know if we’ll be able to conduct an official land acknowledgment this month. But we can certainly begin preparing. We can certainly begin listening.

Finally, I am aware that smoke and ash from the west coast wildfires are now passing through the skies over New England. Even here in Connecticut, some areas are experiencing serious drought conditions and the risk of east coast fires is growing. We know the ever-increasing destructiveness of fires, hurricanes, floods, and other weather-related phenomena is directly related to climate change. Are we listening to the land? Are we listening to the earth? I suppose I am offering a prayer: For the sake of our lives and the lives of all those who are coming after us, may we who live today listen deeply to the land. May we who live today listen deeply and respond well, so that the blessings of the land will not be lost to future generations. May we listen.

Amen and blessed be.

With love, —Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column September 2020

Dear Ones:

And so our 2020 – 2021 congregational year begins. Welcome home! I really mean that. Even though I can’t welcome you back to our beloved UUS:E meeting house on Elm Hill at the Manchester-Vernon line, east of the Connecticut River; even though I can’t welcome you back to that physical space where the ashes of our deceased friends and loved ones are interred, where hawks fly, where deer forage, where an ancient spring hides in the woods; even though I can’t welcome you back to our beautiful, green, accessible building, I still say “welcome home.” It’s always been true that the congregation is not the building. The congregation is those of us who gather for worship in whatever form it takes, education in whatever form it takes, performances in whatever form they take, community time in whatever form it takes. I wish we could gather in person, face to face. But as you know, prudence, safety, an abundance of caution, and the guidance of our principles counsel otherwise.

While I wish I could say “welcome home” in person, there’s a part of me that is relieved I cannot do so. As I write these words, so many of us are bracing for a return to in-person school. So many of us, whether parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or friends have had to contend with the excruciating process of deciding if in-person schooling is the right path for our children. Some of us are teachers or school administrators who’ve had to prepare for in-person school knowing there is no guarantee of safety, knowing there is risk even under the best circumstances. So many of us are waking up with knots in our stomachs, wondering how back-to-school is going to play out, wondering what detail we may have forgotten to consider. I’m mindful of those words in our hymnal from the poet Wendell Berry: “When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound of what my life and my children’s lives may be.…” I’ve had my share of these moments in the lead-up to sending Mason off to college, and now getting ready to send Stephany off to teach and Max off to 9th grade. “When despair for the world grows in me.…”

I am relieved that we aren’t trying to make in-person church happen in the middle of a pandemic. I am relieved I don’t have to convince any of you that it’s the right thing to come back to in-person programming at UUS:E. Churches are proving to be frequent sources of outbreaks across the country. In my view—and certainly in the view of our leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston—we have no business returning to in-person services, especially not right now. I am relieved that at least one important touchstone in our lives doesn’t have to wrestle at all with the decision to re-open. We remain virtual!

With that, let me write the words again: Welcome Home! Welcome to the 2020 – 2021 congregational year at UUS:E. To be sure, it will be different. My prayer is that it will be spiritually nourishing for all of you—a source of comfort, sanity, peace, love and, within the bounds of safety, engagement. May it be a good year.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

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

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United Statesby Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Mondays, September 14 and 28 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. Two discussion sessions have been scheduled for Monday evenings, September 14th and 28th at 7:00 PM using Zoom. For login information, watch the regular UUS:E eblasts, or contact the UUS:E office at (860) 646-5151.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  1. FDA effectiveness standard for vaccine approval

Q:  Can we expect that by Election Day, November 3, that we’ll have a vaccine and this COVID pandemic will be over?

A:  Not at all!   Many – perhaps most – people expect a rapid end to the disease when a vaccine is approved and made available.  This is the hope of politicians who want this to be true, and is fed by the frustrations of many who are confused and socially driven to resume close social contacts with other people.  This widely shared expectation, which is not based on medical technology and science can only lead to unpredicted outcomes and frustration.

A scientific consideration guiding vaccine development was recently announced.  The FDA will review data from the Phase 3 clinical trials just now underway, and grant an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) if any trial vaccine is safe and effective.  Effectiveness is defined as giving immunity to at least 50%.of the number of infected people in the control group.  For example, if 3,000 people are enrolled in the trial, 1,500 people will be given the vaccine.  The other 1,500 – the control group – will be given a harmless injection.  It is now expected that in two months, data will be compared.   If 200 people in the control group test positive, then up to 100 of the 1,500 who received the vaccine can contract the disease from others and the trial vaccine will be authorized for distribution.  As a result, people who then receive the authorized vaccine can only be assured that they will have a 50% lowered chance of catching COVID-19 from future social contacts.  Yes, they can still become infected.  Of course, it is hoped that the trials will show a higher degree of effectiveness.  Either way, it will be important when a trial vaccine is approved that everyone be informed of the level of proven effectiveness to guide their personal expectations

There are four major vaccines now being tested.  For any vaccine receiving a EUA, its Phase 3 trial will have to continue into the future.  The general population receiving the vaccine will not have a control group to make additional scientific comparisons.  Over time, if the continuing trial finds immunity is short-lived and the approved vaccine might only provide protection for a limited time, it will probably be allowed to continue.  Partial protection is better than none.  But it has to be understood from the start that social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and testing, tracing and quarantines will still be required after being vaccinated.  The expectation must be that the vaccine can reduce but not eliminate future infections and contracting the disease..

It is interesting to note that Russia is currently moving more rapidly than the United States through the standard scientific process.  Its goal is to become the first nation in the world to approve a vaccine.  By not following the scientific models for vaccine development, Russia may soon be approving a vaccine that is not only ineffective but may also be unsafe.  Many scientists have compared this to the late 1950s when the US and the USSR were racing to be the first to put a man in space.  “Sputnik” revisited.

  1. International study for advanced care of COVID-19 critical patients

Q: What’s new in developing therapies to treat COVID-19 patients?

A:  In 1989, a group of clinical professionals and scientists in advanced life support techniques formed a group that would share knowledge on best practices to mechanically provide oxygen to failing organ system.   One of their many developments over the years has been the creation of a machine used in an ICU to replace the functions of damaged lung tissue to oxygenate blood for circulation to the body.  This process is called ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and has been used in ICUs to assist COVID-19 patients in respiratory distress.

There is no ECMO manual for ICU staff to follow with this leading-edge technology for COVID-19 patients.  A new consortium has been formed to organize studies to reach this goal.  The study is a multi-centered international research and sharing effort focusing on COVID-19 patients admitted to an ICU using a ECMO device.  Participants include hospitals in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and now the US.

Hartford Healthcare System has now joined this study.  This will include Hartford Hospital, and 6 other Connecticut hospitals in their network.  Other participating centers are in the Midwest and West Coast, but the Hartford Healthcare System is the only group in the northeast currently participating.  The procedures and therapies developed to compensate for temporarily disabled lungs will add to the growing list of advanced techniques to further reduce the fatality rate of Covid-19,

  1. COVID-19 during Flu season

Q:  How bad will it be when the influenza season hits during the pandemic?

A:  There has been speculation predicting increasing difficulties when the coming seasonal flu arrives.  Everyone is urged to get their flu shots when they become available starting in September and October.  This coming season, there will be two high dose vaccines for people over age 65.  This coming year, manufacturers plan to provide at least 194 million doses, which is greater than the 175 million available last year.

The problem anticipated during this next flu season is differentiating between COVID-19 and seasonal flu types A and B.  In anticipation of this, CDC has developed a new test that can differentiate between the two.  Even then, patients arriving at hospitals for care will have symptoms that are similar to each.  These patients must be treated with full PPE and isolation until test results prove it is not COVID.  Another possibility that will be studied is how to treat a person that might become simultaneously infected with both seasonal influenza and COVID-19.

The one positive factor is that protection against both COVID-19 and seasonal flu are the same.  Staying home, social distancing and wearing of cloth face coverings when outside and constant hand washing and use of hand sanitizer reduce both infections.  For people already practicing these measures, fewer people will have the flu this year than previously.

  1. Effectiveness of face masks identified   
  2. What is the evidence that wearing cloth face coverings work? 
  3. A. In an editorial published in the July14 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the latest science was reported affirming that cloth face coverings are a critical way to reduce the spread of infection within a community.  With asymptomatic patients increasingly prevalent in communities, even people who have no awareness they are spreading the virus can prevent their virus-filled exhaled air significantly spreading beyond the mask.  Two case studies were cited.  One reported in JAMA showed that in a Boston hospital system, universal masking policies reduced the transmission of coronavirus-19.  In the other, reported in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that masks worn by two Missouri hair stylists infected with COVID-19 prevented their passing the virus over several days to their 139 customers.

The effectiveness of using masks increases when increasing numbers of people adopt their use.  Optimal effect is reached when the practice is universal.  During April 7-9, the CDC conducted a survey of 503 adults.  A follow up survey was conducted later during May 11-13.  The number of people who use masks when outside the home went from 62% to 76% during that month.  White non-Hispanic adults from 54% to 75%, Black, non-Hispanic adults from 74% to 82%, and Hispanic/Latino adults from 76% to 77%.  The largest regional increase was in the Northeast from 77% to 87%.  Next was the Midwest region from 44% to 74%.

 

  1. Psychiatric disorders among newly discovered aftereffects of COVID-19

Q:   What else is being learned about the aftereffects for COVID survivors?

A:  A study conducted at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan was published last week in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.  It found that more than half of the 402 patients monitored after being treated for COVID-19 experienced at least one of the following psychiatric disorders: post-traumatic stress (PDSD), anxiety, insomnia, depression and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.  The study found that women in particular suffered the most from anxiety and depression despite the lower severity of their infection.  “We hypothesize that this may be due to the different functioning of the immune system,” said Professor Benedetti, Group Leader of the Research Unit at the hospital.

Earlier, scientists had warned of an increasing awareness of coronavirus-related brain damage in recovered COVID-19 patients.  The psychiatric consequences of this disease can be caused by the immune responses to the virus and by psychological stress factors such as stigma, social isolation and fears about infecting others, this study reported.

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

Please note that registration is now full

The Universalist Church of West Hartford offers this program, based on small group connections, daily spiritual practices, spiritual direction, deep inquiry, and embodying/ engaging our spirituality in life.

Info: UU Wellspring. Group will meet via Zoom on first and third Thursdays, September 17 through June 17 at 7:00 p.m.,  facilitated by David Gonci.

Register by August 14: David Gonci.

Minister’s Column August 2020

Dear Ones:

I’m very excited to share with you our Sunday Service schedule for August. In short, we will be virtually visiting a number of different congregations in the region. Here’s the schedule:

August 2nd: We visit the UU Society of Bangor, ME, where UUS:E member, the Rev. Drew Moeller, serves as the minister. (Rev. Drew and the folks from Bangor visited us on July 26.)

August 9th: We visit All Souls UU Congregation in New London, CT. They are offering a service jointly created with the UU congregations in Chelsea, MA and Groton, MA.

August 16th: We visit the Universalist Church of West Hartford.

August 23rd: We visit the Unitarian Society of Hartford.

August 30th: We return to UUS:E, and welcome our friends from the Hartford, West Hartford and New London congregations.

For each of these services, instructions for logging in will be sent in our regular Wednesday and Saturday eblasts. For most of them, you will be able to log in to the UUS:E Zoom site (as you regularly do on Sunday mornings) and experience the service from there. If there are any changes to this procedure, we will do everything in our power to get the word out in a timely manner!

I’m excited about this sharing of worship services for a few reasons. First, this sharing of services will enable our UUS:E members and friends to experience how online worship looks, sounds and feels at other UU congregations. It’s not like having a guest minister visit us in our meeting house for the morning. It’s literally having another congregation’s entire worship experience for the morning. This will be a different for all of us!

Second, at least for some of the services, we will be able to interact with members of other congregations, either through the Zoom chat or through the breakout rooms following the services.

Finally, this sharing ensures that our staff and lay-leaders who regularly work on our Sunday services will get a break. (It also ensures that the staff and lay-leaders at the other congregations will be getting breaks too!)

For most of us, our primary experience of Unitarian Universalism is through our local congregation. This sharing of online services reminds us that we are part of a larger association of congregations. It reminds us that we can work with other congregations to fulfill our purpose. It reminds us our congregation is not alone, that there are others very much akin to us on the religious landscape. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we rarely, if ever, would have thought to share services in this way. It just wouldn’t have happened. But given that we’re all living with the pandemic, and we’re all conducting online worship, it makes perfect sense that we would begin to share services on Sunday morning. A pandemic silver lining perhaps….

I am very curious to know what your experience of these other worship services. Please feel free to let me know what you like about the services at other congregations. And please let me know if you’d like to do more Sunday morning sharing as long as we’re still conducting services online.

With love,

—Rev. Josh