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)

Our ministerial legacy: Many pastors nurtured at UUS:E!

Honoring the Past, Envisioning the Future

Rev. Andrew Moeller, who discovered his ministerial calling here at UUS:E, will return to his “UU home” to help us celebrate our 50th Anniversary on June 2. Drew now serves the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, Maine.

A remarkable number of Unitarian Universalist pastors have been nurtured at UUS:E over the decades, and have brought a bit of our spirit to congregations across the U.S. As we welcome Drew, we celebrate the work of the Reverands Tom Bozeman, Michelle LaGrave, Jeanne Lloyd, Paul Mueller, Carol Rosine and her son David Egan, Gretchen Thomas, Jean Wahlstrom and Mary Wellemeyer. Who will be next on this Path to the Pulpit?

June Milestones ~ This Month in UUS:E History:

June 1969: Our first annual summer picnic is held in Center Springs Park, directly behind the Main Street building where we held services.

UUS:E votes to call an interim minister, with salary paid by the UUA. The Rev. Arthur Olsen arrived October 1.

June 1984: Arnold Westwood preaches his last sermon as our first settled minister. He had been called in November 1970, and helped lead the society through four locations to a home of our own.

Looking forward to other 50th Anniversary commemorations, including:

  • Phenomenal 50th Fun Fair on June 8 ~ Sylvia Ounpuu, coordinator (see article in this newsletter)
  • WUUdstock concert on July 27 ~ Deena Steinberg, coordinator
  • Celebration Gala on October 4 (note the new date) ~ Lesley Schurmann, coordinator
  • Looking back, looking forward. A legacy service on November 3
  • Multimedia 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

Minister’s Column June 2019

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for June is beauty. I find myself struggling with this theme. I struggle because there is so much ugliness in the world. So much hatred. So much corruption. So much suffering. So much exclusion. So much inequity. So much environmental degradation. So much apathy and indifference. I struggle because a central pillar of my call to ministry is naming and confronting the ugliness. That’s why I dedicate a significant amount of my time as a minister engaged in community and interfaith organizing, antiracism work, social justice work and legislative advocacy. I have found these to be the best vehicles for “naming” and “confronting.” But there’s got to be room for beauty as well.

I don’t feel comfortable remaining silent in the face of what I’m calling ugliness. (I also call it evil.) Silence really does equal complicity. When I pause to consider how the Unitarian Universalist principles inform my ministry, well, they don’t allow for silence either. Along with so many of my colleagues in ministry, I interpret the principles as a call for us to name and confront violence, oppression, injustice and hatred—all those forces that suppress the inherent worth and dignity of people, that reduce justice, equity and compassion in human relations, that prevent the emergence of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. We are indeed called to name and confront the ugliness in the world. But there’s got to be room for beauty as well.

We cannot go about our lives as if the ugliness isn’t there. We cannot live in denial. It isn’t a spiritually sound way to live. But neither can we go about our lives as if beauty isn’t real. Neither can we live in denial of the beauty all around us. That isn’t spiritually sound either.

So, I need some help. I want to preach a sermon called “O, the Beauty in the World.” That’s a riff off hymn #182 in our hymnal, Bishop Toribio Quimada’s “O, the Beauty in a Life.” Please write to me at revpawelek@gmail.com and tell me about the beauty in the world. What do you find beautiful? It could be a natural phenomenon, a person, a piece of music, a painting, a town or city, a vacation spot, a room in your home, a mountain, a river, a tree. It could be an act of creativity. It could even be the act of naming and confronting evil.

Tell me what you experience as beautiful. I will compile your comments into a reading in the June 30 Sunday service.

This isn’t an idle exercise. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to carry us through difficult times. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to generate joy in the midst of despair. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to inspire us when we are feeling lost and directionless. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world may be exactly what we need to ground us and sustain us in the struggle for justice.

So, please let me know what you experience as beautiful.

With love and many blessings for a wonderful summer.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Fantastic Fiftieth Frolic – Carnival Fun for All Ages!

June 8, 11 AM – 3 PM

Celebrate our 50th Anniversary at our first-ever multi-generational carnival featuring games, arts and special activities PLUS a delicious picnic! Mark your calendar!! (Rain date June 15).

Click here for more information.

Some of the highlights:

  • Activities for all ages ~ Bounce house, “dunk the pastor,” scavenger hunt, cake walk, community art project, bubbles!
  • Games ~ Bingo, human tic-tac-toe, relay races, corn hole!
  • Barbecue for all ~ Vegetarian, vegan and meat options. Sign up to bring salad or dessert.

Now it’s your turn!

  • RSVP at UUSE (upper and garden levels) or contact church office, so we can plan the food!
  • Volunteer to help with a booth or game, set up or clean up. What can you do??
  • Do you like to bake? Sign up to make a cake or pie for the “cake walk”

Any questions? Suggestions? Contact Sylvia Ounpuu at: ounpuu.adams@comcast.net.

May Milestones ~ This Month in UUS:E History:

May 1969: First-ever child dedication at UUS:E, as little Cynthia Barlow is welcomed into the community.

First Annual Meeting. A Pulpit Committee is elected “to explore ways and means of getting some professional leadership for the Society.”

May 1989: Congregation calls Connie Sternberg as our third settled minister. She serves from September 1989 until her retirement in 2001, and was honored with the title ‘Minister Emerita.’

Looking forward to other 50th Anniversary events, including:

  • Drew Moeller, who discovered his ministerial calling while at UUS:E, returns to preach on June 2
  • WUUdstock concert on July 27
  • Celebration Gala on September 28
  • Looking back, looking forward. A legacy service on November 3

Minister’s Column May 2019

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for May is curiosity. We’ve considered this theme before. As I have preached, the human quality of being curious aligns very naturally with Unitarian Universalism. Our fourth principle, “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” implies that curiosity lives at the heart of our faith. We search because, at some level, we are curious about something we don’t know. Our emphasis on questioning conventional wisdom, questioning traditional theologies, questioning God, questioning authority, questioning the uses of power, questioning religious doctrine and dogma, questioning either/or, black/white, binary conceptions of the world—all of it implies that our liberal faith requires, even demands, a curious spirit.

As a parish minister, it has always been critical to me that the people I serve are curious about each other. Can we approach each other with a spirit of curiosity, with a sense of wonder? After all, that is the best way to build strong relationships within the congregation. I found this list of “curious questions” in a sermon I preached a few years ago. I commend them to you now as ways to get to know each other better. Consider these questions as tools for taking a conversation to a deeper level:

I’m interested. Can you tell me…?

I’m fascinated. How did you…?

I’m intrigued. How old were you when you decided…?

May I ask you about…?

I heard your sharing in Joys and Concerns. Can you tell me more about…?

Where are you from originally?

Who are your people?

Were you scared?

How did you get through it?

What have you learned?

You had this same operation. What can you tell me about it?

“One day at a time”—what does that really mean to you?

Do you miss her?

Do you miss him/her/them?

What’s next for you?

I’m curious. Tell me about yourself.

I’m curious. Tell me what you’re passionate about.

I’m curious. Tell me your story.

And as my colleague, the Rev. Marta Valentin asks, “How is your heart?”

Obviously, a person has to want to share, has to feel safe enough to share, must be willing to risk being vulnerable in that moment—our stories are so precious, our hurts so tender, our fears so raw. It may not be the right time to share. But I ask you to contemplate the difference in experience between a person who is invited to share some piece of their story and a person who never receives such an invitation. The former knows their story matters to someone, even if they can’t share. The latter cannot be sure, and may suspect they don’t matter.

Our curiosity about each other’s stories is a sign of our willingness to know, to hold, to love. Our curiosity about each other’s stories is the foundation of a caring congregation. It is also builds the relationships that provide the the foundation for our social and environmental justice work.

With love,

—Rev. Josh