Minister’s Column April 2020

Dear Ones:

Let me begin with a heartfelt expression of love and care for all of you. This coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in ways none of us could have anticipated just a few months ago. To say the least, it is frightening. As I write these words in mid-March, we don’t yet know how long it will last. We don’t yet know the scope of the economic impact, though we know for sure it will be massive. There are still so many unknowns. I’m mindful that there are times when I’ve preached a message of “embracing the unknown.” Well, that sounds a bit romantic right now, perhaps even naïve. This pandemic is not an unknown any of us wants to embrace. Yet, we also have little choice. The pandemic is here. It is frightening. In the midst of it, please know that I love each and every one of you. I love our congregation. I love our UU faith. I will do whatever I can to keep us connected, to keep us caring for one another, and to keep us resilient as a spiritual community.

As I write we are in the midst of a transition to “virtual church.” We are learning as we go. Already there are many meetings and small groups happening online, usually using Zoom. By the time you read this, I hope we have ramped up our capacity for online engagement so that many more of you are able to connect on a regular basis. If you are at all unclear about how to use Zoom or how to engage with UUS:E’s emerging online life, please do not hesitate to contact me at minister@uuse.org, (860) 652-8961or Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office at office@uuse.org, 860-646- 5151.

We are getting good advice from congregations in hard-hit areas like Washington state and New York City. They are telling the rest of us not to try to replicate normal congregational life online. People aren’t necessarily looking for the same kinds of programs. They are looking for experiences and interactions that address our immediate situation. If you have an idea for a kind of online experience you’d like to have with others from UUS:E, please let us know. We will help you set it up and publicize it so that others who are looking for something similar can have access to it as well.

Regarding Sunday services, we conducted our first livestream service using Zoom on March 15. As I write these words, we have been addressing some of the technical issues we encountered that morning, especially the sound quality of the music. Special thanks to Jane Osborn, Dan Thompson, Phil Bognar, Gina Campellone and Mary Bopp for their work on addressing this particular issue. They’ve done such a good job that we are planning to start a weekly virtual concert series on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM with Mary and some of the UUS:E musicians. By the time you read this we will likely already have held a concert or two.

We are not going to plan Sunday services too far in advance. For example, you won’t see in this newsletter any blurbs about upcoming services. This will allow me, Gina, Mary and the Sunday Services Committee to design live stream services that are as relevant as possible to what we are going through as a community, nation and planet. But please be assured our plan is to have a consistent live-stream service every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. Instructions for logging in or phoning in will be sent every Saturday.

For sharing Joys and Concerns on Sunday morning, we now have a specific email address. Send your brief joys and concerns to joysandconcerns@uuse.org. We will share them during the service.

This is so hard. I am praying. I am praying for health care workers. I am praying for first responders. I am praying for grocery store workers and everyone else whose work supports food production and distribution. I am praying for all those who have lost jobs who were already living from paycheck to paycheck. I am praying for all those who are trying to figure out childcare now that their children are home from school. I am praying for all those who are and will be sick with COVID-19. I am praying for the families of those who have died. I don’t know what impact my prayers will have, but I hope that as I pray I orient myself toward doing what I need to do for me, for my family, for my neighborhood, for the most vulnerable in our region, and perhaps most importantly, for all of you, the members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East. As a reminder, you called me to be your minister exactly 17 years ago (March, 2003). So now I begin my 18th year as your called minister. I begin in prayer that we may endure this global pandemic with as much grace and integrity as we can muster. I begin in prayer that we will get through this difficult time, and carry on for all the days to come.

Indeed, I pray:

May faith in the spirit of life,

and hope for the community of earth,

and love of the light in each other,

be ours now, and in all the days to come.

With love,

– Rev. Josh